The new bathrooms now have walls, ceilings, capped plumbing fixtures and working electricity. Progress marches on. Or at least moseys. Here are some photos of stuff:


I think Barry just christened the new men's room.

You can really get a sense of the (odd) shape of the room now.

Some day this will be a sink instead of a faucet stub.

After some adjustments, this piece of junk will be the bar in the back room.

Hey look, most of the front room's sound system has arrived.

New, small ice maker. Sufficient? Time will tell.

Also! We have new stickers. The new ones are green-on-black instead of black-on-white and white-on-black like the old batch. Just $1 each, go get 'em!

But most importantly (to me, anyway) these actually have the correct aspect ratio. Whoever printed the old stickers stretched the image to fit the sticker instead of centering it, meaning the circular part of the logo wasn't actually a circle. Most people wouldn't notice this, but it always drove me crazy.

I regret to report that these stickers do not glow in the dark. Our t-shirts glow in the dark, but after literally years of trying, we were unable to find anyone who can print glow-in-the-dark green ink on paper or vinyl products. Shirts, yes; stickers, no. Oh, sure, some of them will say they can print green, but what they mean by that is glowstick yellow, which is a little bit green-ish, but is not in fact the DNA Green. I decided it was better to have a non-glowing logo than a yellow logo, so there you have it. (A few months back I bitched about this at length on my other blog -- part 1 and part 2 -- if you're interested in the details of this fool's errand.)

Lemme tell you about a construction-related joy called the PUC, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

Let's say you're expanding your business, and putting in a bathroom, a bar, a kitchen, whatever. Part of this interminable process is that at some point, your plans land on the desk of someone at the PUC, and they take the list of all the gear you're installing -- every toilet, every sink, every floor drain, every refrigerator -- plug those into some mysterious equation, and then they say, "Now you owe us $40,000 please. Or you can't have your construction permit."

The purported reason for this is that your business is placing "additional load" on the water and electrical systems, and so they get to bill you for it.

But, it's funny, because I get a bill every month for the water and electricity that I use that charges me for exactly the additional load that I have placed.

So this is actually a "paying the taxman" tax. You have to pay this bill for the privilege of paying future bills.

Having heard me rail against the anti-business stupidity of our local governmental bureaucracy, you might get the impression that I'm against taxes, or government in general, but that's far from the case. I'm not some Libertarian who thinks that roads are things that just magically happen during the night. What I'm against is stupidity, which we have in abundance. We have a system that is overwhelmingly optimized for the wrong things.

Taxes don't exist just for revenue generation for some nebulous, parasitic entity called "The Government". They exist so that people pay their share of the commons from which we all benefit, directly or indirectly; and also, they are a form of social engineering. You raise taxes on things you want to discourage, and lower them on things you want to encourage.

So what's this discouraging? What's the market pressure they're trying to exert here? Is it conservation? "We'd like you to use less water, so we'll discourage you from installing sinks." Well, no, for two reasons. First, if you want people to use less water, you raise their monthly water bill (or you make the bill progressive, so that the rate is higher when water consumption passes what you consider a "reasonable" level). Who cares whether they have a sink if it's never turned on. But second, it's not like I have any choice about these sinks! I can't say, "Hey, you know what, let's do our part for Mother Earth and just put in one sink instead of two." All of this is mandated by the Health Department: a bar has to have a 3-pot sink, a hand-washing sink, an ice well, a floor drain, etc. If your capacity is X, you must have Y toilets. There's basically zero discretion here.

So what they're actually discouraging by charging an enormous fee for merely owning a sink is not "wasting water", but is instead, "doing business in San Francisco". They're saying, "We'd rather you not expand your business. We'd rather you not increase the number of people you employ, or the number of visitors you bring to town. We think those things are bad, so we'd like to make it less likely for you to be able to afford to stay open."

It's the "We will have to confiscate your ice cream cones" thing all over again.

Congratulations to Bootie for winning "Best Event Producers" in SF Weekly's readers' poll, and to Bootie house band Smash-Up Derby for winning "Best Band"! And for the second year in a row, our very own Chupa won "Best Bartender"!

Did I mention that SF Weekly had decided to eliminate the category of "Best Dance Club" this year? Yeah, I think I did.

Photos!


Dismantled

Hubba Hubba

Peelander-Z

Mortified

Oh, hey, have you heard of this "hot new startup venture" SceneTap? They've signed up twenty SF bars to allow them to install facial-recognition cameras to mine demographic data. Read the comments on this SF Weekly blog post about it to see the warm welcome they're getting -- e.g., "Thanks for the list of bars I won't be going to".

I'm sure this will never, ever be abused. It's not like SFPD isn't perpetually lobbying for clubs to be forced to install exactly these sorts of cameras and ID scanners. Oh wait, yes they are. In fact, one of the "standard conditions" that ABC is putting on all new liquor licenses now is a requirement to save video of every patron, and turn over the recordings whenever they ask. Since most people applying for liquor licenses don't have the luxury of fighting the default conditions -- which usually means paying rent on an empty building for six months during the appeal process -- you can expect to be seeing a lot more of that around town.

Anyway, back to SceneTap, I posted about this company on my other blog last year, but it probably actually belonged here instead, so I'll just cut-and-paste...

This douchebag's startup is actually getting bars to pay them for this:

"This is going to change the way the bar industry runs."

Facial detection cameras that will keep track of the number of people in a bar, including a running tally of ladies.

Cameras are set up at the bar's exits and entrances, says SceneTap CEO Cole Harper. The software is not savvy enough to, say, be linked up with Facebook and detect identity; it's just able to detect a face and its gender.

"This is going to change the way the bar industry runs," says Harper.

While the software can tell you the gender ratio, it unfortunately doesn't rate attractiveness.

This post is part of an ongoing effort to identify the people, places, ideas, products and companies that are poised to become central to the global conversation over the next six to nine months.

Cole Harper, may you never have sex again.

And you stay klassy, Forbes.

This idiotic idea is not even an original idiotic idea: there's a Twitter feed called "yo bro, where the wimmins at" (it's not actually called that but I'm not telling you its real name because I don't want them getting the hits) who have been doing this by mining the gender field on Foursquare checkins for years. Every time they at-spam us on the Twits I mark them as spam, but the account is still there, despite being a pretty clear violation of Twitter's ToS.

The other night, one of our lovely customers decided, after leaving the club, to piss on the wall of one of our neighbors. He did this right across the street from a police car. When the cops came over suggested that maybe this was not such a good idea, he responded with:

"It's ok, I'm French."

This is a thing that actually happened.

Meanwhile...

We got some absolutely horrific news, permits-wise, about the construction of the new space above the pizza place that may actually scuttle the entire project. I'm trying to wait for more details before completely freaking out, but who are we kidding here, I'm completely freaking out.

Anyway, in the increasingly-remote event that our new performance space is ever allowed to open, I need to decide what to do about webcasting from that room, e.g., whether to do it at all.

We've been webcasting 24/7 since 1999, and it's mostly been a giant pain in the ass, but hasn't ever quite gotten to be such a pain to cause me to just pull the plug -- though it's gotten close a few times. The webcast brings us no business, and frankly brings us no press either. A lot of people do watch it, though. Of course, those people are by definition not customers.

So really, my answer to the question of "why do we webcast" is just, "Because it seemed like a good idea in 1999, and I'll get whiny email if I stop."

Compelling.

So do we webcast from the new venue or not? I dunno, if we don't people will ask about it constantly. It's kind of our "thing". So, our options are:

  1. Change nothing, no webcast from the new venue.
  2. Webcast from the new venue only when nothing's going on at DNA.

    We'd need a couple more camcorders, a bunch of cabling, and a bit of automation on audio input switching. Probably around $1,000 for the gear.

  3. Webcast both DNA and the new space, 24/7; two streams.

    For that we'd need the above plus a second Mac Mini, a second Component-to-DV device, and it would reduce our available outbound bandwidth by quite a bit, but I think it'd still be manageable. So this approach is probably around $2,000.

  4. But hey, the video's really kind of crummy right now. Wouldn't it be nice if the new venue was HD?

    The webcast would still need to be lower-than-HD resolution (we don't have the bandwidth) but using HD cameras and cabling would give us much better low light performance, so even a low-rez video stream would presumably look a whole lot better.

    That would require a more complicated and expensive video run (boxes on either end to run HDMI over cat5), more expensive cameras, and a new computer-controllable video switcher. This would leave the new room HD and the old room SD, and would probably be around $4,000 total.

  5. Well what about also upgrading DNA to HD too?

    That means replacing all of the cameras; replacing the panning cameras with multiple fixed-position cameras; replacing the video switcher; and each camera needs its own pair of HDMI-to-cat5 boxes. There's no real opportunity for starting small or doing it incrementally, so I think this ends up costing around $12,000 in hardware alone for both venues (not to mention the labor of running miles of cable).

So that's kind of a drag. I'm not about to spent twelve grand to make the "freeloading from home" experience better. In fact, any time I think about how much money I've spent on that already, I feel like an idiot.

Maybe I'll do a Kickstarter for it, har har har.

While the Permitting Apocalypse is ongoing, here's some more irritating nonsense we got from from Yelp.

This is all just completely stupid and pointless in the grand scheme of things -- Yelp will be out of business eventually and nobody will mourn them -- but it's kind of funny. Yelp's service completely sucks, and their customer service is non-existent and insultingly arrogant toward the businesses like mine upon whose backs they make their money.

Remember last month, when we finally managed to get someone from Yelp on the phone to ask why they wouldn't let us use our logo while communicating with our customers through their service? Her response was, "Your not the only person whose business I've lost over this: my employer is making it impossible for me to do my job." That was awesome.

Apparently my blog post about that got some attention over at Yelp, because a couple weeks later we got this:

From: Darnell Holloway <darnell@yelp.com>
Subject: Yelp- Your Recent Blog Post
Date: May 1, 2012 3:10:43 PM PDT
To: "barry@dnalounge.com" <barry@dnalounge.com>

Hi Barry,

I'm Yelp's Manager of Local Business Outreach. A recent blog post (link below) from DNA Lounge was sent my way, and I wanted to check in with you to see if you had any additional information or feedback about the situation that was described.

http://www.dnalounge.com/backstage/log/2012/04/20.html

Thanks,
Darnell

--
Darnell Holloway
Yelp, inc.
darnell@yelp.com

Barry wrote back with:

Yes. We want the following:

1. Be able to respond publicly to our customers with our logo as the image;

or if not number 1:

2. Opt out of being included on the Yelp site.

Can you help with either of these things?

A month later, Darnell, who is apparently Manager of Glad-Handing Complainers Without Actually Doing Anything, wrote back with 500 words that said "No". Here's our reply, including some quotes from him:

From: Barry Synoground <barry@dnalounge.com>
Subject: Re: Yelp- Your Recent Blog Post
Date: Tue, 29 May 2012 14:53:01 -0700<BR>
To: Darnell Holloway <darnell@yelp.com>

Beyond that, you mentioned in your blog post that there were some businesses you noticed that appeared to have a picture of something other than a person, being used to respond to reviews. It's important to note here that there is a difference between a user account on Yelp, and a business account. A user account is meant for personal, non-commercial purposes, and is used to participate in the Yelp community (write reviews, post in Talk forums, etc).

I understand that. Obviously we're talking about our business account.

A business account is used to manage a listing on Yelp. In order to take full advantage of the features of a business account (ie, the ability to message reviewers), we do require that a business owner upload a photo to their profile. And just as there is a difference in the accounts, the guidelines for acceptable photos differ as well.

Yes, I understand that that is your policy. I am asking you to make an exception to it, so that we can communicate with our customers using your service in the manner that we find appropriate.

Please tell me whose face appears when the administrator of the AT&T Park account replies to their customers.

Please tell me whose face appears when the administrator of the Best Buy account replies to their customers.

We require business owners to use a photo showing their face for two main reasons. The first reason is for your benefit as a business owner. We believe your messages will be received more warmly if there is not an attempt to disguise your appearance, because we have found that users tend to respond more favorably when they can attach a face to name.

That's an interesting theory. Please stop doing me this "favor".

The second reason is for the benefit of the reviewer. From a consumer perspective, a message from a business owner whose face can not clearly be seen may be perceived incorrectly.

Meaning what exactly?

We believe customers respond more favorably when they can see who is contacting them.

Again, that's an interesting theory. Please stop doing me this "favor".

An official communication from my business to my customers must have our logo attached to it, not the face of a random employee here. If you cannot make an exception, and approve our logo image, then we will simply never use your service.

That said, we do realize that uploading a photo may not be for everyone, and we can respect that. But again, in order to take full advantage of your business account, we require a photo in which your whole face can be seen.

This is an interesting definition of "respect". It sounds a lot like "no" to me.

Finally, the conversation you referenced in your blog post seemed out of the ordinary, so the purpose of my original e-mail was to check in and see if you had any additional information or feedback about the person you spoke with.

No thanks, I would rather not rat out the surprisingly honest Yelp employee I spoke to.

Thanks for your understanding,

Thank *you* for understanding that as soon as you approve our logo image for use when communicating with *our* customers on your site, we will continue using your service.

Until you do that, we won't be using your site, and certainly won't be buying any ads or other services from you.

I eagerly await your reply.

That finally got him to stop pretending there was some "misunderstanding" and come right out and say "no":

From: Darnell Holloway <darnell@yelp.com>
Subject: Re: Yelp- Your Recent Blog Post
Date: May 29, 2012 3:14:55 PM PDT
To: Barry Synoground <barry@dnalounge.com>

Thanks for your response. Unfortunately we won't be able to make an exception at this point on the requirement for a human photo. I've had our user support team look into the businesses you've mentioned, and there is nothing to suggest that exceptions have been made on the photo policy in those cases. In some instances, businesses may initially upload a non-human photo to their biz owner account, however all photos still need to be approved by our user support team on the back end before the messaging tools are made fully available. I also wanted to let you know that I will certainly pass your feedback along internally about your concerns with the current photo policy.

Darnell Holloway
Manager of Local Business Outreach, Yelp, Inc.
Tel: 415-230-6525

So, yeah. Screw those guys.

Yelp has gotten a lot of press for running a shake-down operation where they ask businesses to pay to have bad reviews removed. There was even a class-action suit about it last year. We made it pretty clear to them on the phone that we were willing to spend money with them to get our logo approved, but they didn't bite. Apparently they're not just scammers, they're bad at being scammers.

I understand Google's about to roll out their own Yelp competitor. I hope it isn't as much of a dud as Google Plus was.

There was this big DJ festival last weekend called "I Love This City" that you've probably seen ads for on the side of every bus in town for months. We had an event that night called "I Love Dubstep" that was intended to be an after-party for it. The festival was a LiveNation thing with a bunch of big-name underground DJs (this is not actually an oxymoron) and it was advertised as happening in the parking lot of the baseball stadium... until, two weeks before the event, suddenly it was moved to Shoreline.

So what you're wondering is: had the city in question, the target of their love, been Mountain View all along?

Or did their love for San Francisco go unrequited, and Mountain View was just the sloppy-seconds rebound?

It may not surprise you to learn that it was the latter.

They'd been planning this event for ages, but of course they had to start advertising long before the permits were finalized, because -- who am I kidding, you know why. So it turns out that the stadium parking lot is actually owned by the Port Authority, who rent it to the City of SF (of which they are not already a part? I don't understand) and then SF rents it to the Giants. So there are three enormous bureaucracies who get to stick their fingers in.

Well, at the last minute, the Port Authority told them:

"You can't sell bottled water."
"What the?"
"It's bad for the environment."
"What is this I don't even."
"No."
"We're doing an under-21 dance party, we make all of our money from water sales."
"No."

I've never heard of any precedent for a bottled-water ban. Certainly there are no local laws about it. This appears to simply be the whim of someone at the Port Authority.

Then on top of that, while they knew the prices for most of the permits they were waiting on from the City, the Police Department was forcing them to do a "10-B" which is, basically, a shakedown. The "10-B" thing is when you are forced to hire off-duty police officers to work as your security staff, and both the officers and SFPD get paid for it. (You also might guess that these officers don't really work for you, so they don't have your interests at heart. You'd be right.) Well, the promoters couldn't get a straight answer about how much they were going to charge for that until the last minute (because apparently the algorithm SFPD uses for pricing 10-B is, "How much have you got?") and that number turned out to be significantly higher than anyone expected, based on what it had cost in the past.

Plus, their presales were a little low. That, combined with the ballooning costs and the elimination of one of their primary revenue streams meant they decided to move the whole thing to Shoreline at the last minute. The better terms they got from Shoreline also meant that they could make it be a 16+ event instead of an 18+ event, and that they could go all the way until 11pm instead of being forced to close at 10pm.

The goal here was to create a 40,000+ person annual festival in San Francisco, and that has now been 100% torpedoed because of SFPD's greed, and because some random bureaucrat doesn't like bottled water.

So once again: San Francisco would really, really prefer that you not do business here.

Have you heard of a sleepy little office-park suburb called Mountain View? Maybe Mountain View would like your business instead.