The New Look, 2001

by Jamie Zawinski

We spent most of 2001 remodeling the DNA Lounge, and here's what we came up with!

For a more up-to-date description of what the club looks like today, see our Facilities page. What follows is a description, written in 2001, of that year's major remodel.

We started with what was essentially a dive bar with a nice stage: a big wooden barn with some speakers. It was held together with duct tape, and everything was sticky. Today, it's a state-of-the-art technology-heavy dance club and live performance venue with a post-apocalyptic ``cyberpunk'' look.

Our original remodeling plan was to move the downstairs bar, level out the dance floor, and clean up the bathrooms. Well, it turned out that we had to do some fairly significant construction in order to soundproof the place sufficiently to match the new regulations, and so that simple remodeling plan turned into a less-simple one... One thing led to another (e.g., if you close up the windows, you need ductwork...) And a year later, here we are.

So what have we done? Let's see...

Old Floorplan
New Floorplan

Click on the images above to see the old and new floorplans, upstairs and downstairs. These images aren't totally to scale, or totally in sync with what we built, but they're pretty close. For scale, the building is roughly 100' x 50'.

Architecture

Bars: We replaced the downstairs bar (the main bar.) The old DNA had a four-sided bar that took up roughly the front third of the room. It caused a huge dead space near the front wall, and seriously intruded on the dance floor. We ripped that bar out, and installed a new bar along the front wall of the club, between the doors. This just about doubled the usable size of the downstairs dance floor.

We re-built the upstairs front bar (the balcony bar.) The old bar left very little room between the bar and the balcony, The new bar has been redesigned to be longer but less deep, so there is now a lot more room to move on the balcony.

We also re-built the upstairs back bar (the lounge bar.) The old bar was sort of a triangle tucked into the corner. The new bar is in a slightly different position, and takes up about the same amount of space, but has room for two bartenders instead of just one.

All three bars are as compact and efficient as they are in part because we keep no kegs at the bars: all of our beer kegs live in the walk-in refrigerator, and the beer is piped from there to the bars through hundreds of feet of refrigerated tubes!

Dance
Floors:
We completely resurfaced all of the floors in the club. The downstairs floor was partially concrete, partially wood-framed floor, and partially rubber mats. The dance floor area had a serious slope leading up to it that was a major tripping hazard. Basically, it was a mess.

We resurfaced and leveled the downstairs floor. On top of the new concrete, we constructed a new wall-to-wall dance floor, consisting of two layers of wood floating on top of 1/4" of neoprene, to make it springy and comfortable to dance on.

The balcony and lounge floors were also resurfaced: they are smooth now, instead of being torn-up wooden planks.

Bathrooms: We doubled the capacity of the bathrooms, and rebuilt them all from scratch. The old downstairs bathrooms were both to the right of the stage. That whole space is now occupied by the women's bathroom. The men's room is now to the left of the stage (the former location of the dj booth.)

The bathrooms (downstairs and upstairs) have been completely re-done in black tile and stainless steel fixtures, with motion-sensor activators on the toilets, urinals, and sinks.

Anyone who ever used the old DNA's bathrooms, with their 18th century level of hygiene, will really appreciate the new ones!

Balcony: The balcony has a new railing. It's made of rusted steel beams and wire mesh. Unlike the old railing, the wire mesh lets you see through the railing if you're standing back from it, which opens up the sight lines to the stage from the second floor quite a bit. The new railing also has an integrated drink rail.

The whole balcony support structure has been re-engineered and reinforced with steel girders, and as a result, we were able to remove two of the columns supporting the balcony from below, opening up the downstairs even more. The remaining columns are now rusted steel cylinders, instead of wooden posts.

And the whole thing is just incredibly cool looking.

We also rebuilt the front stairs, out of steel: instead of being a straight shot from the balcony to the front door, the stairs now turn, leading you into the main room instead of out the door. This was also for soundproofing reasons: there's a concrete wall between the stairs and the outside world now.

DJ/Sound
Booth:
In the old DNA, the dj booth was an enclosed room tucked away to the left of the stage, with a glass window between it and the dance floor; and the sound booth was a raised platform in a corner against the front wall. Both of these were very isolated and inaccessible to the main room.

We built a metal catwalk-like platform, halfway between the balcony and the downstairs (yes, our mezzanine has a mezzanine!) This is the new location of the dj, live sound, and lighting stations. The dj is much closer to the dance floor, and people standing at the balcony are actually looking over the dj: they have an unimpeded view of the stage, and can watch the dj work.

In the upstairs back room (the lounge) we've moved the dj to the edge of the dance floor, right out in the open. The old location was up on the third floor looking down, with bad sight lines to the dance floor, and completely inaccessible to the public.

Kitchen: In 2006, we replaced the bathroom on the south side of the balcony with a kitchen! It has windows opening onto both the bathroom and the lounge, from which you can order food.

Equipment

Sound
System:
We have a completely new sound system downstairs, capable of supporting both djs and live performances. Only bits and pieces of the DNA's old sound system remain: what were once the main speakers in the main room are now the speakers in the upstairs lounge.

We have a combination dj/live music 17,000W sound system serving the main room, including the downstairs stage and dance floor, and the second floor balcony; plus a separate dj sound system in the upstairs lounge.

All sound system control and routing in the main room is provided by a pair of BSS Sound Web 9088 MKII 8x8 digital processors. These are signal-processing computer thats digitally simulate all of the crossovers, compressors, equalizers, etc. used in the PA. By using these, we're able to have a single sound system that serves double duty as both a dj system and a live system, since it can be totally reconfigured at the press of a button.

Complete specifications of all our gear can be found on the Sound System page.

Light Show: The majority of what used to be the light show in the main room downstairs is now the light show in the lounge, upstairs. We have a completely new set of lights downstairs, including strobes, spotlights, and dozens of moving-fixture intelligent lights.

All main room lighting, including dance floor, stage, and dimmed architectural lighting, are controlled from the lighting station on the dj platform.

Complete specifications of all our gear can be found on the Lighting System page.


Soundproofing

Front Wall: The entire front wall of the building has been reconstructed: it is now a foot-thick concrete wall, from the sidewalk to the peak of the roof.
Airflow: To accommodate this, we also installed a ventilation system: we closed all the existing roof penetrations (for various fans and gravity vents) and have riddled the club with ductwork, leading from a single input fan, and a single output fan on the roof of the building. The fans are variable-speed, so we are able to keep the interior of the club comfortable as the night goes on.
Doorways: We rebuilt the entrance and exit paths: both doors of the club are now preceded by a zig-zagging hallway whose walls are also 6" of concrete, covered in 2" of sound-deadening material. Essentially, to enter or exit the club, you walk through a giant muffler. In addition, we have new soundproof front doors.

To accommodate the new concrete sound walls around the entrances, we rebuilt the main stairway, so that it no longer faces the outside world, but turns at the wall.


Technology

Cameras: The club is full of video cameras, which are used both as sources of images for the TV screens, but also for the webcast. We have about a dozen cameras installed around the club (two of which are servo-mounted) providing views of the stage, the dance floors, the dj, the line outside, etc.
Webcasts: We have audio and video webcasts every night. Our plan is simple: everything that goes out over the club's in-house sound system also goes out over the web, and gets archived for two weeks. We broadcast in both RealVideo and in streaming MP3 formats.
Internet
Access:
'l33t warcha1king g1yph0r For nine years, we provided a number of flatscreen internet kiosks throughout the club. In the time before everyone had a cell phone with a decent web browser, this was convenient and fun. The kiosks outlived their usefulness, however, and we finally removed them in late 2009.

We do, however, still provide free wireless network access (802.11b SSID = "dnalounge", no registration required.)