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San Francisco's iconic City Lights bookstore on verge of closing

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(CNN) — San Francisco’s iconic City Lights bookstore is on the brink of collapse as the coronavirus pandemic is forcing the business to keep its doors shut.

Elaine Katzenberger, who is the Publisher and CEO of City Lights Booksellers & Publishers — both the store and its publishing arm — has started a GoFundMe campaign to raise the $300,000 that is needed to keep the business afloat.

“City Lights is faced with formidable challenges at present: Our bookstore has been closed to the public since March 16, and must remain closed for an indefinite period of time,” Katzenberger wrote on April 9.

She added: “Unlike some shops, we’re unable even to process online orders, since we want our booksellers to remain safely at home. With no way to generate income, our cash reserves are quickly dwindling, with bills coming due and with a primary commitment to our staff, who we sent home with full pay and healthcare, and who we hope to keep as healthy and financially secure as possible.”

City Lights was founded by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, one of the members of the Beat movement, in 1953. The store in the now-fashionable North Beach neighborhood is synonymous with the Beat Generation and was the publisher of Allen Ginsberg’s famous poem “Howl.”
It still serves as a meeting place for San Francisco’s creative community and hosts readings, book signings and other literary events.

Ferlinghetti was named the first-ever poet laureate of the city of San Francisco, and his 100th birthday, March 24, 2019, was decreed Lawrence Ferlinghetti Day in the City By the Bay.

As of April 10, the “Keep City Lights Books Alive” campaign had raised $106,000, more than one-third of its goal.

The bookstore has also asked fans around the world to share their memories of City Lights on social media.

City Lights, 261 Columbus Avenue at Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133

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