Speech to the Board of Permit Appeals

by Jamie Zawinski
2-Feb-2000, 7:30pm


My name is Jamie Zawinski, and I am buying the DNA Lounge. This is Barry Synoground, my business partner and, if things go well, soon-to-be the club's general manager.

I was one of the initial employees of Netscape, and have been working in the software industry for fifteen years. Barry is a publisher, and has seven years of management experience.

When I moved to the Bay Area in 1989, one of the things that impressed me most about San Francisco was its artistic culture. It seemed like I was seeing a good band twice a week. And not just bands, but all kinds of performances: acrobatic dance troops, giant flaming robots, things I'd never seen before in my life. And I knew this was the city I belonged in.

In the last few years, things have changed.

I'm here to tell you that San Francisco's artistic culture is dying. It's not dead yet, but it is seriously suffering. I'm trying to do my part to reverse that trend. That's why I'm here today: to stop complaining about it, and to do something about it.

In San Francisco today, there just aren't many venues for small to medium sized bands. There are hardly any options filling the gap between a small bar, and a huge concert hall. The DNA Lounge fits in to that gap very nicely, and is centrally located, near other clubs, public transportation, and lots of parking.

The DNA Lounge has been operating as a nightclub in its present form since 1985, and has been a bar since 1977. The DNA currently has permits that give it the option of doing business 7 days a week until 6AM. It has had these permits for at least ten years, possibly longer. In this time it has had very few complaints from neighbors or from the police. In fact, compared to many of the other clubs in the city, it has been a model neighbor, and a model club.

Since I am buying an existing business, and plan to operate the same kind of business in the same location, I am here asking you to grant me the same permits as are in effect there today.

In other words, I am asking you to lift the Police Commission restrictions on hours of operation, and on new patron entry, and re-entry of smokers.

Let me say a few words about our intentions.

My background, like thousands and thousands of San Francisco's newest wave of immigrants, is in the high-tech industry. Many of these people work very long, very non-traditional hours -- 60, 80, 100 hours a week.

We want to open a high-tech environment that caters to these people -- lots of cutting-edge technology mixed with bands, dancing, plays, and performance art.

The most amazing thing about the internet is not that it's an easy way to buy stuff, but rather that it is a whole new communications medium that has given birth a new form of community. What I'm excited about here is seeing what happens when you take the old kind of physical community, and the new kind of virtual community, and merge them. For example: if a club's web site has interviews with each performer, then the web site isn't just an advertisement, now it's a magazine. If everything the bands and djs are playing goes out live over the net, then the web site isn't just a magazine, it's a radio station. And if the people reading and listening can interact with each other, whether they're in the club, or in Finland, then it's not just a radio station, now it's a community that crosses all boundaries. I find this idea very exciting, and see it as a logical extension of what I've been working on for years.

We are not opening a disco, and do not need to drive huge crowds to our space. A number of late-night clubs have closed recently, and we find that our friends in the internet industry are having a great deal of trouble finding safe, regulated places to socialize and experience the arts.

This is not what San Francisco is about and this situation is not good for the city. The city is losing cultural diversity.

We feel that the law is very clear on this: late-night permits are legal. And the planning code makes it clear that the primary consideration for whether to grant such permits is whether the club owners will be good neighbors. We're responsible business people who will definitely be good neighbors. Let me tell you a little about what we've done so far:

Let me also point out that I too am a SOMA resident. I live in a loft! I live half a block from a nightclub! And a big part of why I moved here was because of the proximity to the clubs. This neighborhood is where I live my life, during the day and night.

In closing, let me reiterate my reasons for doing this. This is a business, and I fully understand how to run the business. But I'm not doing this because I think it's good way to make money (I'll let you in on a little secret: it's not.) I'm doing this to give something back to the city I've made my home. I see a lack, I see a problem that needs to be fixed. Someone needs to fix it. And it might as well be me.

Thanks for listening.