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One of the world’s coolest bookshops – Bookworm in Beijing – has been forced to close following a crackdown on ‘illegal structures’ which led to the termination of the existing lease. General manager David Cantalupo told the South China Morning Post that he doesn’t know whether the landlord’s decision to end the lease was as a result of political pressure or simply the authorities getting to grips with locations that have slipped through the net of official regulations – the Bookworm is built above a former pumping station which may not have had any formal status, being neither business or residential.
However, some observers are suspicious. They wonder whether the real reason might be because the shop was a well-known hub that hosted many discussions on contemporary affairs and social and political issues, and that it may have overstepped the mark in the eyes of the authorities – though if that is the case, it has taken the city many years to act.
Bookworm began life in 2002 and moved to its present location in 2005. Its entrance is unusual. Customers reach the store by climbing an exterior staircase and once inside find themselves in a very hip, loft-space, almost an aerial conservatory, with lots of natural light. The shop served food and drinks and was a community space in which people could work, chat, hear an author speak, or just hang out. The walls were decorated with many photographs of writers who had visited, and since 2006 the store held its own literary festival.
Cantalupo says he plans to look for other locations and many fans of the shop hope he is successful. One wrote on twitter: ‘All China hands from the last 15 years who spent any time in Beijing are mourning the loss of the Bookworm. What an institution. Measure of its impact: My WeChat Moments are 90% about this right now. That’s never happened before’.
There are some more pictures of the shop below.