Arts | Culture

Quirky Carlsbad bookstore facing eviction granted a seven-month reprieve

Lhooq Books
Sean Christopher, the owner of Lhooq Books, a funky vintage bookstore and arts hub in Carlsbad Village, sits in front of his shop in October. Christopher lost his lease on the property on Nov. 16, but his landlord has granted him a seven-month reprieve to find the business a new home.
(Howard Lipin/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Landlord has given Lhooq Books in Carlsbad Village until May 31 to find a new home

Lhooq Books, the funky Carlsbad Village bookstore and arts hub that was set to close on Nov. 16 after losing its lease, has been granted a seven-month reprieve. But proprietor Sean Christopher said without community support to find and underwrite a new location, the business will close for good next spring.

Christopher, 45, has leased the property for the past 12 years at 755-1/2 Carlsbad Village Drive and lives with his 10-year-old son, Jack, in an 1940s-era home next door. Although Christopher said he had never missed a rent payment on the two properties, the landlord unexpectedly canceled his month-to-month lease in mid-September and gave him 60 days to vacate the property. With so little time to find both a new home and retail space, and no savings to pay for the move, Christopher said he feared he and his son would end up homeless.

After launching a community appeal on Facebook and a Gofundme campaign,Christopher hired a lawyer and he and the landlord, San Juan Capistrano City Manager Ben Siegel, hammered out a compromise on Oct. 31. A new lease has been signed through May 31. Although details of the agreement are sealed, Christopher said he’s grateful to have time to figure out the next steps for his life and work.

Ideally, Christopher said he would like to find an arts-loving philanthropist or nonprofit organization that would underwrite Lhooq Books’ move to a new location in Carlsbad Village, which he could continue to operate as a paid employee.


“We are working closely with members of the Carlsbad City Council to protect and build on the art, culture and activism we bring to the community,” he said.

Initially, Christopher said he considered the idea that if there’s not enough community support to relocate, he would sell off the store’s vast collection of vintage books, art and memorabilia and move to the Pacific Northwest where he would concentrate on writing novels and short stories, his first passion. But buoyed by support from the community in recent weeks, he said this week that he has decided to stay in town permanently.

“I think North County, especially coastal North County, needs an arts and culture space that specializes specifically in what many would call avant-garde or underground art, music and writing,” he said. “We worked very hard at creating a space that was all that, but also was inviting to all.”

Lhooq Books
Rebecca Reiser of Carlsbad browses the books at Lhooq Books, a funky vintage bookstore in Carlsbad Village.
(Howard Lipin/The San Diego Union-Tribune)


Lhooq Books — located in an alley between Garden Stage Bagels and the Taco Bell/KFC restaurant near Madison Street — has the oddball, grassroots vibe of something you’d find in San Francisco or Berkeley.

The front outdoor wall of the converted garage is lined with hundreds of books that community members are welcome to borrow or pay what they can to buy. Inside, thousands of rare, vintage and new books line floor-to-ceiling shelves decorated here and there with found art, globes, statuary, antique typewriters, a fish tank and chess sets. There are shelves devoted to literature, beat poetry, philosophy, religion, poetry, war, fiction and biographies and more.

On the fenced patio between the shop and house where he and his son live, there are tables and chairs where visitors can order a cappucino and watch movies or attend book readings, lectures, concerts, dance performances and writing workshops. The alley-facing west wall of the center is decorated with a large colorful mural by local skater-artist Kris Markovich.

The hidden-gem quality of Lhooq Books — which Christopher named after “L.H.O.O.Q.,” a tongue-in-cheek 1919 artwork by Marcel Duchamp — has made it a darling with travel writers and bloggers. It’s been written up in The New York Times, the “Hidden San Diego” website and in a local arts crawl guide.

The Gofundme campaign that Christopher launched in September raised $5,700, which he used to pay his attorney and help cover expenses at the shop while he explores options. He’s now in talks with friends and supporters about hosting possible fundraisers or a possible auction to underwrite the relocation.

If nothing else, Christopher said he now has time enough to gradually sell his inventory to raise enough money to launch the next chapter of his life. That future includes his new wife, an artist in Eastern Europe who he married last December. He spent the past three weeks in her hometown doing interviews and paperwork for her immigration, which should happen in the next four to six months.

Because he wants to make his growing family a priority, Christopher said he can no longer afford to live a hand-to-mouth existence and needs a better work/life balance. So he’s hoping that he can seek out grants, donations and underwriters willing to commit to saving Lhooq Books and supporting a paid staff.

“I think it is a very serious and important cause,” he said. “We need a place that nurtures the kind of art and culture we supported. Places like Lhooq Books are where the true artists discovers themselves and eventually gets discovered.”


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