We had our Seventh Annual Cocktail Robotics Grand Challenge scheduled for July 2020, but obviously that didn't happen due to the ongoing global shitshow. But, we're going to take a crack at an online version of it! We're going to record some demos and interviews with cocktail robot makers, and edit that into a mostly-pre-recorded webcast.

It will be show-and-tell only this year, since a contest doesn't really lend itself well to this format. The online-only format does, however, mean that we can open it up to more people, since you don't have to schlep your robot to San Francisco! So no matter what city you're in, if you have a cocktail-making robot that you'd like us to feature, send me an email!

We're aiming to do our first round of filming next Saturday afternoon, Oct 24. The process will be that we'll get Dr. Kingfish onto a video chat with you, and he'll interview you while you demo your robot. Pretty straightforward! Once we have those clips, plus some B-roll video that you provide, we'll have what we need to put the show together.

We've got a number of bots signed up so far, but we could always use more, so please spread the word!

Hopefully you can dust off your robot and get it up and running by Oct 24. If we have a lot of interest, we may add a second day of filming, but we'd really like to shoot all the clips at once.

We haven't nailed down the actual air date of the show itself, since I want to see how the shooting goes first. But hopefully it will be some time in November.

If you wanna bask in the glory of our past events, we've got videos! Oh, do we got videos...

First up, the happy news: for October, we have a bunch of new cocktails available for pick-up or delivery:

  • Essence of Newt: Herradera blanco, Cointreau, Tamarin simple syrup, and lime.

  • Beetlejuice: Bulleit rye, pears, a splash of cognac, simple syrup, Absinthe, and Peychauds bitters.

  • Dark Ectoplasm: Pumpkin horchata and Kraken dark rum.

  • Light Ectoplasm: Pumpkin horchata, sweet, sweet DNA Lounge Brand Vodka, and a splash of Kahlua.

Delivered in a mason jar, 3 or 4 servings each, depending on how you drink. Order now from dnapizza.com!

Next up: Press! The future! Doooooom!

Here's a recent article about a number of San Francisco venues and our Independent Venue Alliance: The price of survival: What's the future of San Francisco's indie performance spaces? I have a few zingers in here:

When I broach the topic of opening his location to an in-person audience, DNA Lounge owner Jamie Zawinski rejects the "completely, utterly impractical" idea.

"For us to have a small enough audience, plus enough staff to ensure that they are behaving safely, would mean the ticket price would have to be so ridiculously high that nobody would pay it," Zawinski said. DNA Lounge -- which has always livestreamed shows from its two stages for free on its official website -- has averaged three-five weekly shows since the pandemic began, including Vice Reine's monthly Star Crash electronic dance party.

"We are in the business of putting on sweaty concerts that cost $8-$20," he says. "Asking us to 'pivot' to seated dinner theater at $1,000-a-head is just not realistic.

As Zawinski bluntly puts it, "We all need material support, by which I mean money -- from city, state and federal sources. That's it. It's obvious, and it's not complicated. Without that, there are no more independent venues by the end of the pandemic."

BTW, the fact that Cheeto Mussolini and Kentucky Palpatine petulantly decided to cancel the second Federal stimulus package means that the Save our Stages provisions that were on track to be included in it are not happening, so all of your favorite venues are fucked, and independent music is dead.

Next up: FUCK UBER.

I hope you've all received your mail-in ballot by now, but if you haven't turned it in yet, please make sure you vote NO ON PROP 22. Look, this is all you need to know: If Uber wants it, it is evil, and you definitely want the opposite. Uber and Lyft just spent $180 million dollars on a PR blitz to convince you that they can't afford to pay their employees a living wage:

Uber, Lyft, Instacart and Doordash wrote Proposition 22 to create a special exemption for themselves from California law that requires app-based companies to provide basic protections to their workers. Now they're spending more than $180 million on Prop 22, the most expensive ballot measure in US history, to boost their profits by denying their drivers' right to a minimum wage, paid sick leave and safety protections.

Also, Instacart is requiring their employees (sorry, "non-employee independent contractors") to distribute pro-Prop 22 propaganda:

It's like fast food workers telling you vote against minimum wage before ordering, or attendants required to announce support for anti union politicians before flight. If this isn't illegal, it should be.

For the other propositions and candidates, Broke-Ass Stuart has a good guide.

And I shouldn't need to say this, but if you don't vote for Biden, you're voting for Fascism and very likely for the United States never having free elections again, so fucking vote Biden. Hold your nose if you have to, but do it. The endgame of your "protest vote" is my friends in camps.

How is it almost October already? Well, this means that it's time for The Guardian's Best of the Bay again, so vote for us, ok? It's kind of a weird poll to have at all this year... They say:

We wrestled with the idea of continuing Best of the Bay this year, with so many of our favorite spots struggling, shutdown, or permanently closed. In the end, we decided that it's essential to bring the community together to celebrate its resilience, pay respects to legends, and energize ourselves for the fight to continue. Please vote in the below categories for who or what you think deserves to win, even if that business is closed.

I suggested that the poll should only be open to businesses that closed this year, but I guess that's too dark.

Anyway, categories for your consideration:

  • Best Streaming Show: DNA Lounge Live Webcast
  • Best Takeout: DNA Pizza
  • Best Pizza: DNA Pizza
  • Best Overall Bar: DNA Lounge
  • Best Dance Company: Hubba Hubba Revue
  • Best Theatre Company: Hubba Hubba Revue
  • Best Performance Space: DNA Lounge
  • Best Live Music Venue: DNA Lounge
  • Best Nightclub: DNA Lounge
  • Best Dance Party: Bootie SF, Turbo Drive, Cyberdelia, So Stoked, Wasted, Sequence, Death Guild...
  • Best Burlesque: Hubba Hubba Revue

New product alert!

Our Dazzle Masks are guaranteed to prevent the enemy from getting a lock on your heading and range!

Styled after the distinctive paint job in DNA Lounge's "Dazzle Room", itself based on the "razzle-dazzle camouflage" used on warships early in World War II, prior to the invention of Radar. Camouflage designed not to conceal but to confuse.

And every one of these masks is different: we have sixty-four different patterns, selected for you randomly!

They are of the same high quality construction as the Deluxe Masks: hand-made cotton twill masks with built-in over-the-nose wire. $25 each.

I expect these to be quite popular, so get your order in now! Our first batch is in stock, and we've already got a second run of them in production.

Broke-Ass Stuart has a run-down of our extensive set of online events:

How DNA Lounge Is Keeping Sf Weird During The Pandemic:

The DNA Lounge webcast -- dnalounge.com/webcast/ -- has, for nearly 20 years, been piping audio and video of its live events onto the internet. Now, under the direction of general manager Devon Dossett, and with crews of dedicated producers, promoters, performers and techs, the club has significantly upgraded its webcast technology, and has transformed itself into a de facto television studio, for broadcasting live events from its stage to the world. [...]

Events so far have included live variety shows, projection-mapping artists, DJ parties with full club lighting and go-go dancers, and even an appearance by EDM luminary Shlump, on his way to perform at an outdoor, drive-in rave in Colorado. [...]

Hopefully better Federal leadership and real solutions will come soon, and we'll be able to return to live shows and live gatherings before it's too late for local venues and local live entertainment. In the meantime, DNA Lounge, and all its partners, are doing what they can to keep San Francisco's independent, non-corporate entertainment business alive and viable for the Bay Area's future.

SF Weekly spoke to a number of venues, including us, about our disparate, desperate efforts:

Trials & Innovations: Live Music During COVID-19.
Socially distanced shows, live streams, and new tech won't be enough.

Instead of going outdoors, DNA Lounge has responded to the pandemic by going online. Ever since reopening in 2001, DNA Lounge has made live-streaming events online a major part of the club's identity. [...] A little less than a week after the Red Room Orchestra played the Chapel, the DNA held their own music event: a quasi-live performance by chiptune and electronic band Crashfaster in which half the band filmed themselves playing, and then the other half performed over that prerecorded video. "They even had a friend of theirs record a performance of some laser equipment," Dossett says, a testament to the kind of creative thinking artists are putting into practice these days. [...]

However, as with the Red Room Orchestra show at the Chapel, Dossett says DNA's currently scheduled events aren't really about making money. It's just an attempt to keep nightlife alive during the pandemic. Live music, he says, is "vital to people's emotional wellbeing." [...]

The reality for musicians and venues alike, is that until touring returns -- until venues can open to full capacity and it is possible for bands to safely travel the country again -- both are going to be hurting. Badly. [...]

Back in June, the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) estimated that 90 percent of America's independent venues were likely to close during lockdown due to lost revenue. In July, Senators Amy Klobuchar (D) and John Cornyn (R) introduced to the Senate the Save Our Stages act (S. 4258). If passed, the bill would authorize up to $12 billion in grants for venues and industry workers from the Small Business Administration.

And The Examiner, as well:

SF clubs mix things up to avoid a last call Proprietors get creative with money-raising efforts during pandemic

"None of this is even remotely sustainable," says Zawinski. "So, like every other nightlife-related business, we're all just sitting here watching the clock tick and waiting for the money to run out." [...]

Club owners and managers all hang varying degrees of hope on the local Independent Venue Alliance, which represents and educates a group of over 20 mostly closed nightlife venues on state and federal funding initiatives. [...] But with little financial assistance from the government thus far or any clear-cut timeline as to when bars and clubs will be allowed to fully reopen, many remain forced to rely on limited patronage and donations from longtime customers.

As always, if you want to ensure that DNA Lounge will still be here for you once the pandemic is over, contribute to our Patreon or make a one-time donation. And buying some pizza or cocktails helps, too!

And while we wait, tune in tomorrow for Turbo Drive and Saturday for Hubba Hubba Revue...

Next Tuesday, Sep 15, is the 25th anniversary of Hackers, so we're doing another Cyberdelia! Obviously we'd rather be doing this in person, with the skate ramps and the costume contest and whatnot, but... it's the apocalypse.

It's a two-part event: at 5pm PDT, Hackers Curator is hosting a movie watch-a-long with live commentary and Q&A from celebrity guests at twitch.tv/hackerscurator. Guests include:

  • Laurence Mason - Lord Nikon
  • Peter Kim - Blade
  • Darren Lee - Razor
  • Iain Softley - Director
  • Renoly Santiago - Phantom Phreak
  • Roger Burton - Costumes

Then, immediately after that, on dnalounge.com/webcast/ (starting at 6:30pm) we've got our lockdown cyberpunk dance party live from the DNA Lounge main stage, with superstar DJs Tripp and Netik, accompanied by the rollerblading Cyberdelia gogo dancers!

Our original plan was to have all of this on the DNA Lounge stream as is traditional, but after weeks of effort, Hackers Curator could not get the movie studio to answer their question, "How much to license the movie to play live on our stream?" They decided to just risk it and do it anyway, but I... did not. So that's why the early part of the evening is on Twitch and the later part is on the DNA stream, even though I'm vehemently opposed to all things Twitch. *

We've got some other awesome stuff coming up in the next couple of weeks, too!

Wouldn't it be great if we could actually let you into the building to see these shows? Yeah... alas. Well, these events are all free to watch, but you can support DNA Lounge and all of our performing artists by purchasing pay-what-you-want "tickets" in advance, or by hitting that tip jar during the show.

* Why am I so down in Twitch, you ask?

Well aside from the fact that DJing is a violation of their terms of service, aside from that...

Twitch has the same business model as Facebook: their only goal is to convert your customers into their customers and then push you out of the way. Twitch is happy to have you drive your audience to their site, where they can then make them captive to Twitch. After that, they've got the customer and you're just a statistic. I strongly believe that one of the things that has served DNA Lounge best over the years has been, "Never let a gatekeeper get between you and your audience".

Hey check this out, we've got a new online menu site for DNA Pizza that lets you place orders for delivery or pick-up -- and, for pick-up at least, it does not gouge us into paying 15% to the middlemen!

If you order for pick-up, the only fee they charge us is a (small, reasonable) credit card processing fee, so it doesn't cost us any more than if you paid with a card in person.

For delivery orders.... it's more complicated and I don't fully understand it. This new thing is operated by DoorDash, and they (like all of these delivery middlemen) are just amazingly deceptive and sleazy. It looks like what's going on is this:

  • If you click through from dnapizza.com/order/ and order for pick-up, there are no additional fees, as I said above.

  • If you click through from dnapizza.com/order/ and order for delivery, they charge you (the customer) $3 plus 11% for delivery, but they do not make us (the restaurant) pay additional fees on the back-end. Hooray!

  • That's the same thing that used to happen if you went to DoorDash through this link (with a bunch of "utm_source" crap on the end). That magic URL was their concession to the restaurants where they said, "Ok, if it's obvious that you drove the traffic rather than us, we won't charge you a commission."

  • But these sites, like Facebook, are all about lock-in: about converting our customers into their customers and then kicking us to the curb. Here's where it gets sleazy.

    Let's say that yesterday you went from dnapizza.com to DoorDash, and we got that commission-free deal. Great. But then today you go to DoorDash and you click "order again".

    Well if you do that, then not only do they charge you (the customer) 11% + $3 for delivery, but they also charge us (the restaurant) 15% of the order on the back-end. That 15% doesn't show up on your bill, but it eats up most of our profit on the order.

When I first saw that DoorDash was offering this new "no commission for pick-up orders" option, my first question was "what's the catch?" It took us a while to figure it out. The catch is, "the first hit's free." They make it look like it's a better deal for us, but actually it's a customer-acquisition con. Once they have made our customer a captive of their silo, they get to gouge us on the back-end. And that probably happens immediately after the first order.

We are still listed on the other delivery sites (except Postmates because fuck Uber) so that if someone does happen to find us via Grubhub or whatever, well, I guess we'll take it? Even though their hidden 15% fee eats up almost all of our profit.

But if you would like to order from us and ensure that we get your money and don't have to give away a huge chunk of it to a middleman, then I think that the best way for you to do that is to always click on dnapizza.com/order/ rather than starting from your DoorDash account.

I think?

And I expect them to move the goalposts again at some point. I mean, being consistent or clear or honest is no way to make money.

I'm not sure, but at this point we might be better off just closing the restaurant entirely. If we aren't currently paying more in staff than we're making on food and booze sales, then we're pretty damned close to it. Not only are sales a shadow of what they were when the nightclub was open, but these delivery "commissions" are absolutely killing us.

If you want to help DNA Lounge survive this medically-induced coma, please contribute to our Patreon or make a one-time donation.

And buy some pizza and cocktails! Preferably for pick-up.

The new black-on-green variant of our Deluxe Mask is in stock now -- go get 'em!

Hey, were you hoping that maybe someone would buy Slim's from Golden Voice and someday bring back that venerable stage that was so important to our local music scene? Sorry, 2020 isn't done shitting on everything you love just yet. It looks like Slim's is going to be renamed "YOLO" and be operated by someone called "Pimp Group LLC". I have no inside knowledge of this, but if I were a betting person I would put money on this being a bottle-service "Ultra Lounge".

Remember that time I tried to resurrect another local live music venue that had been turned into an "Ultra Lounge", failed at that spectacularly, and then it turned into a sports bar that lasted less than a year? Yeah, good times, good times.

Fun fact, "Ultra Lounge" is usually a synonym for "money laundry". If you watched Breaking Bad, it's the same con as the carwash. That venue you walked by that had been there for years but seemed to only be open once every six weeks? Like that.

If you don't want DNA Lounge to be replaced by a Pottery Barn, or worse, an Ultra Lounge, maybe kick in to our Patreon or something, I dunno.

Last week we did our first quarantined live show at the club: Apothecary Raree! We've been doing DJ sets from the main stage pretty regularly but this was the first one with real performers.

We recorded about half of the acts the night before, and did the rest live from the main stage. That gave us time to turn over the stage without anyone needing to get too close to each other. It was a short show, only an hour of acts, not counting the DJ before and after, but it went pretty well!

To my great surprise, I was able to upload the show to Youtube. It got dozens of Content-ID hits, but it looks like it's not actually blocked? Yet? I hate you, Milkman Youtube.

We hope to do more of this kind of thing, mostly because we're all going crazy doing nothing! But lest anyone mistake this for a business model -- it's not. It's a small way we can put a little joy out into this dystopian hellscape we're all living through. But it's not a business. The tiny amount we take in via the "Donate" button might cover our bandwidth and staffing costs, but that's about it. And we're still paying rent and insurance on a big empty building.

We've managed to turn this place into a nice little TV studio in the meantime, though. Besides the existing webcast cameras we've also got a mobile recording rig that lets us do more complicated shots. And we've got projection mapping all over the place, which looks just fantastic. Now we're trying to find ways to use it that make sense. And don't kill anybody. And... maybe pay some bills? But probably not.

We've got live DJs tonight: Sound Breaker, Gabber and doomcore with DJs Reinforcer and Pyramidhead. Our DJ webcasts have mostly had a pretty good "turnout", and the chat has been really active, especially at Death Guild, Star Crash and Turbo Drive. Come hang out!