Bomb threat cancels drag story time at King’s English Bookshop, store closes for day

No one was hurt, and the Salt Lake City bookstore was later given an “all-clear” by police.

(Lauren Gustus I The Salt Lake Tribune) Salt Lake City police respond to a reported bomb threat at The King's English Bookshop, at 1511 S. 1500 East on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023.

Utah drag queen Tara Lipsyncki has been hosting all-ages drag story time events at Salt Lake City bookstore The King’s English since June.

Lipsyncki was grabbing her keys and on walking out the door to her latest event Sunday morning when she said the shop’s owner, Calvin Crosby, called her to say the store had received a bomb threat.

Lipsyncki immediately turned to her husband to relay the information, she said, and together they pondered, “Is it sad that we aren’t fazed anymore?”

(Theadora Soter I The Salt Lake Tribune) Salt Lake City police respond to a reported bomb threat at The King's English Bookshop, at 1511 S. 1500 East on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023.

Salt Lake City police temporarily closed off 1500 East between Emerson Avenue and Kensington Street to investigate the threat, which Crosby said was called into police before shop staff showed up Sunday morning.

Police in a post to X, formerly known as Twitter, described the call as a “suspicious circumstance” and said a police K-9 team trained to detect explosive materials responded. Staff and attendees were safely evacuated, but by about 11:30 a.m., the team had given the building an “all-clear,” police later announced.

“We’re under the assumption it’s because of our drag story time,” Crosby said of the threat.

The bookshop’s event was ultimately canceled and the store was closed for the day “for the safety of our booksellers and loyal readers,” according to social media posts from the business. No one was hurt.

The event, which Crosby said benefits the nonprofit BrainFoodBooks, is usually calm. Parents and children alike attend, and children always come with adults, Crosby added. Lipsyncki said it started as a summer reading event, during which she reads three stories.

“It’s just a fun celebration of of diversity,” Crosby said. The stories vary across genre and age-range and are typically from books that recently arrived at the store.

But Sunday’s event seemed unusual before the threat, Crosby noted. There’s typically a cap of about 30 attendees for each event for safety reasons. For this event, “multiple blocks of tickets” were sold, he said, hitting capacity with only six ticket-buyers.

Crosby reached out to the ticket-buyers after noticing this, confirming that three of them were regulars, but the other three didn’t respond. “They had big blocks of tickets. It’s very odd. I went on social media and tried to Google everybody ... those big blocks of ticket people were pretty much invisible.”

It’s unclear if the block purchases were connected in any way to the threat placed Sunday.

Mayor Erin Mendenhall said in a post to X on Sunday that the city plans to work with the bookshop to reschedule the event.

“I cannot say this strongly enough, EVERYONE belongs in Salt Lake City,” Mendenhall wrote in the post. “The actions today to cause fear at @KingsEnglish around a drag story time event are not welcome here.”

This is not the first time an event Lipsyncki has been a part of has faced threats. In January, an all-ages drag show at TeaZaanti saw an armed protest from the Proud Boys. The show was canceled, went on hiatus for a month and returned at a new location with armed supporters.

Of today’s events, Lipsyncki said, “I’m more frustrated, because it’s like we are making so much progress with all this ... we’ve been doing so well. It’s so annoying and frustrating because people can’t live and let live.”

Salt Lake City police continue to investigate the source of the threat. Anyone with information about the case may call investigators at 801-799-3000.