29-May-2020 (Fri)
Wherein we've got face masks

Ride out the pandemic with DNA Lounge on your face! Elastic polyester face masks with adjustable ear straps, and including a disposable 3-layer filtration mask pad. $15 each.

If these sell well, we will probably do some different designs in the future, so if you know of a good vendor who can do custom mask printing, let me know. It was surprisingly hard to find one that actually specified the printable area and wasn't all "call for quote".

Relatedly, the DNA Lounge store now has a "hold for pick-up" option at checkout, so you can avoid the shipping fees by picking up your merch in person at DNA Pizza.

Look at our beautiful cocktail jars! Why don't you stop by and take some home with you? I added the full menu of all the cocktails our Liquor Scienticians have been developing for you.

Remember, if you pick them up instead of having them delivered, the delivery services don't take their 15% pound of flesh from us. Call ahead! 415-626-0166.

You've probably heard that The Stud is closing, at least for the foreseeable future. Here's a good article about it, with a nice history of the place:

Stud Stories: Remembering a Bar That Epitomized Everything Great and Weird About San Francisco

The place has been living on borrowed time -- albeit very creatively -- for about four years. Things have been uncertain ever since the previous owner sold the business when facing a steep rent hike, and it became clear that the offspring of the now deceased original property owners intended to develop the site or sell it for development and profit handsomely. (In recent years, the gargantuan L7 apartment complex rose next door to Stud's tiny edifice on what had for decades been a surface parking lot for Muni and Golden Gate Transit buses, and the image began to feel like one of those cinematic fast-forwards about gentrification.) The Stud Collective, recognizing this, began hunting for a new space in 2016 even as they got one and then another two-year lease from the property owners.

Given that their current location wasn't going to last much longer, it makes total sense for them to stop paying rent on an empty building now, and save that for their new location instead. Still, it's sad.

In these last few weeks DNA Lounge has had it slightly easier than many of our fellow bars and clubs because we are also a restaurant. Venues that are 21+ have, so far, been prohibited from doing any business at all. Though we're allowed to deliver liquor and our delicious cocktails, that's only in conjunction with a food order.

Well, this week, bars are allowed to start delivering cocktails, but ABC is demanding that they sell food, too. Which is a pain in the ass if you are not a restaurant, and do not have a kitchen.

San Francisco Bar Owners Struggle With Reopening Requirements

The announcement allowing bars, wineries, distilleries and breweries that do not have their own kitchens but that partner with meal providers to sell alcoholic beverages to-go was made Friday by the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

Dalton owns Future Bars, which has about a dozen locations in San Francisco. He says pivoting his business model to suddenly partner with restaurants or food vendors is an undue burden and logistically challenging. He wants the city and ABC to go a step further, and relax the meal requirement.

Though we were all shocked, and pleased, to learn that ABC was going to allow us to sell to-go alcohol, never forget that this agency is no friend of the industry that they purport to be regulating. Their idea of "regulate" almost always most closely resembles "destroy".

For example!

ABC is currently ramping up a set of sting operations where under-age people try to order alcohol. And simultaneously, they are in the process of changing their rules so that if you fall victim to that sting, you lose your license with essentially no hope of appeal:

Booze Rules: The Latest on the ABC Emergency Rules

The new "rules" do away with most due process protections for licensees including discovery of relevant evidence, responsive pleadings, time to prepare for hearing and mandatory live administrative hearings before license suspension or revocation being imposed. [...] The new rules do not go away if the COVID 19 "emergency" goes away. From now on an "emergency" is anything the ABC says is an "emergency." [...]

Now the ABC wants to Include the Use of Minor Police Employed Decoys as "Emergencies" justifying the suspension of due process protections.

On May 20, the ABC upped the ante on the new emergency regulations by including a new category of offense in the emergency rules -- sale to a minor employed by the police as a decoy to accept alcoholic beverages from a delivery driver acting as the "agent" of the selling licensee. [...]

Minor decoy penalties are draconian. The first violation is a 15-day license suspension, the second in a 36-month period is a mandatory 25-day license suspension and the third in a 36 -month period is license revocation.

Given these violations are also criminal violations for the delivery person (which could be any of the delivery services, including FedEx and UPS) this may bring the current work around of delivering alcohol to a screeching halt. I cannot imagine the major delivery services agreeing to carry alcohol when doing so exposes them and their drivers to criminal liability for not carding someone wearing a mask because of COVID 19 concerns and requiring the driver to leave the package on the front porch. [...]

The ABC is using the COVID 19 crisis as an excuse to implement a system of permanent "emergency" orders that would abrogate licensee rights to defend themselves and their licenses in administrative proceedings.

ABC's goal is not "regulation" of the alcohol industry. It is the destruction of it. The agency grew out of Prohibition, and they have not changed.

Taking advantage of a pandemic to push through onerous new "emergency" powers is as repulsive as it is unsurprising. Into every plague come the plague rats.

One of the most likely outcomes of this pandemic is that the vast majority of independently-owned venues will go out of business, wiping the slate clean for multinational superpredators Live Nation and Golden Voice to fill those voids. That's been their mission for years, and this can only accelerate it.

Their M.O. has long been to wait until an independent venue is in financial trouble, and then take it over and either turn it into an undifferentiated franchise, or simply disassemble it, as they recently did with Slim's.

So all venues will be Live Nation, just like all restaurants will be Taco Bell (or Ruth's Chris Steak House).

With No Timeline for Reopening, SF's Independent Venues Seek Lifeline

Bedard worries that smaller venues without backing from Live Nation or Goldenvoice, diversified corporations with credit lines deep enough to weather the storm (though not without layoffs), will shutter before they're able to adapt. It could be "financially less ruinous," Bedard said, for venues to close than to continue operating at a loss whenever the concert restrictions lift. [...]

Independent venues closing could also solidify the controversial expansion of Live Nation and AEG, parent company of Coachella promoter Goldenvoice, into the local concert market.

Live Nation, which operates the Fillmore Auditorium, the Masonic, and August Hall, can burn $150 million a month for the rest of the year "without any concern," company president Joe Berchtold told Billboard.

$150,000,000 a month. A month.


Buy some pizza, ok? Best if ordered for pick-up by phone at 415-626-0166 so that we don't have to give away almost our entire margin to the extortionate delivery services.

This took longer than we expected, but they have finally arrived! Available for pick-up or delivery from DNA Pizza!

Speaking of delivery, a few weeks ago San Francisco ordered the various delivery services to reduce their fees from their criminally extortionate 30% to a still-extortionate 15%, and I predicted that they'd find some loophole or some other way of keeping those fees high. But, to their credit, they all seem to be complying with the 15% cap. Or, if they aren't, they've hidden it in a way we haven't spotted yet.

But if you want to save us from having to pay them that 15%, please do call ahead at 415-626-0166 for pick-up!

"Wow, these companies are obeying the law!" is faint praise indeed.

But seriously, almost no time can go by without these companies doing something just ridiculously sketchy. Remember six weeks ago -- I know, it feels like a year already -- but a mere six weeks ago was when Yelp (who own Grubhub) decided to try to non-consensually funnel more business to their partner Gofundme by creating a "fundraiser" for you whether you wanted one or not. (Don't think they're trying to "help" here, it's so that they get the service fee on that credit card transaction.) Anyway, that resulted in possibly the finest quote I have ever given to the press:

SF Bar Owner to Yelp: "Fuck All of These People Entirely"

Like many business owners across the country, Jamie Zawinski, the owner of SoMa nightclub DNA Lounge, was less than pleased to learn that a partnership between Yelp and GoFundMe meant that the Yelp listing for his business now had a fundraising button on it that he hadn't consented to. "What the fuck?" he said regarding the move in an email to Eater. "Seriously, what the fucking fuck?" [...]

"I don't really have a lot to say about this," Zawinski told Eater, except, "Fuck all of these people entirely... Really, get all the way right up in there and fuck them."

Oh, but that was six whole weeks ago. What are Yelp / Grubhub up to today?

Yelp is Screwing Over Restaurants By Quietly Replacing Their Phone Numbers

Even though restaurants are capable of taking orders directly -- after all, both numbers are routed to the same place -- Yelp is pushing customers to Grubhub-owned phone numbers in order to facilitate what Grubhub calls a "referral fee" of between 15 percent and 20 percent of the order total.
Cool, cool.

Since the current dystopia means that all we do now is webcasts, we've upgraded! We're now doing full HD on the stream, and it looks great. (Downside: if your home network can't support a full HD stream, it's gonna be a little choppy... but most people can handle that these days, I think.)

Our audio webcast went online in May or June of 2000, and the video webcast followed in July 2000, and has been running 24/7 ever since. I'm not sure, but I suspect this makes DNA Lounge the oldest continuously-operating webcast in the world. There were older ones, of course, but the Trojan Room Coffee Pot and the Netscape Fishcam shut down many years ago.

Anyway, about that upgrade. We've been a very happy customer of Sonic for years (their service and support has been fantastic, and their policies on customer privacy and net neutrality are top notch), but even though they've been rolling out fiber all over the city for years, SOMA still gets treated like a stepchild, and our four DSL circuits from them just aren't cutting it any more. Sorry, Sonic. It's not you, it's me. No wait, it's you.

We're using Monkeybrains now (another Bay Area company not owned by an international conglomerate). I'm nervous, though, because I have a deep distrust of wireless uplinks. We tried that here before, ages ago (remember when we sent Bishop down the pipe?) and I also had a DirecTV dish at home for years, and my experience has always been: putting a dish on the roof is great, unless you want it to work if there's rain, or fog, or birds, or a stiff wind. But, people tell me things are better now, so we'll see.

This was a multi-day slog of cacading failures, and hardware and software upgrades piled atop each other, but such is my lot in life as House Music's Own Sysadmin.

You can make me feel better about these decisions with a donation, is what I'm getting at here.

Also there's a chat area at the bottom of the window now. I wrote that a couple of weeks ago, in case you haven't noticed. It's basic, but it gets the job done, and so far people haven't been jerks! Let me know if there are chat features you're dying to have there.

Anyway, the stream looks really nice now. I hope you enjoy it. Tune in to our upcoming webcasts. It's a pretty full schedule!

First up: the government of Saudi Arabia now owns almost 6% of Live Nation / TicketMaster, a half billion dollar investment.

Saudi Arabia Buys $500 Million Stake in Live Nation, Stock Rises:

The Saudi Public Investment Fund is now the company's third-largest shareholder, with John Malone's Liberty Media the largest individual shareholder with a 33 percent stake. [...] Many firms have been reluctant to take investment from the fund following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018.

That would be the Saudi Public Investment Fund overseen by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, darling of Silicon Valley, who is widely believed to have personally ordered that Khashoggi be kidnapped and dismembered alive with a bone saw.

Live Nation, again, is the multinational behemoth that sells 80% of all tickets in the US, and owns 117 venues and exclusively books 33 others, including The Fillmore, The Masonic, Cobb's, Punch Line and August Hall.

In local news:

San Francisco has 75 billionaires. Most of them aren't donating to local COVID-19 relief.

Mayor London Breed set up what she called the Give2SF COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund, and started asking for cash. [...] It hasn't worked. As of late last week, the Give2SF Fund had received a total of $10.5 million in donations, according to Mayor Breed's office, an order of magnitude less than the anticipated need. [...]

Dorsey isn't unique among San Francisco's nine-zeroes club. If there are 75 billionaires in San Francisco, close to 70 have yet to fork over a dime to COVID-19 relief. Dorsey's local parsimony is the standard.

In an unprecedented time of unprecedented need, with unemployment projected to top 20 percent and housing displacement estimated to exceed the nadir of the Great Recession, the crop of billionaires created during the past decade in San Francisco -- many of them, like Dorsey, the beneficiaries of generous tax breaks from the city -- have chosen to hold onto their fortunes.

Dorsey got a bunch of fawning, gullible press recently reporting that he had "donated $1 billion" but that's not at all what he did. What he did was shift $1 billion of his money into a new corporate shell, owned by him, that will be a part of the privatization of services that the government should provide.

What Dorsey did was move approximately 20 million shares of Square stock, worth more than $1.26 billion at current market value, into his charitable LLC. A philanthropic technique popular in Silicon Valley, charitable LLCs escape reporting requirements and also allow money to be spent on lobbying -- or investing for profit, as critics point out. [...]

A few hundred million dollars in donations would represent less than 1 percent of the fortune of 75 billionaires. This would be money that San Francisco would not have to cajole out of its feudal overlords if they were taxed. The ability to dodge such taxes is something Jack Dorsey is more than happy to pay for. [...]

Again, this is not to single Dorsey out for being venal. He has company. Other donors who ponied up to defeat Proposition C in an effort to avoid paying taxes and who haven't seen fit to dish a dime to COVID-19 relief include Levi Strauss, the San Francisco Giants, Charles Schwab, Instacart, and the Chamber of Commerce itself.

Incidentally, DNA Lounge has applied for both the Payroll Protection Program and SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans, on just about the day that those started taking applications, and so far we've gotten $0, like so many other struggling small businesses.

Ruth's Chris Steak House got $20 million, though. They had a profit of $42 million on revenue of $468 million last year. Cool, cool.

So what I'm saying here is, Smash The State, and Join Our Patreon.

26-Apr-2020 (Sun)
Wherein a shambler strikes.

"Don't board up your windows", they said. "That sends the wrong message", they said. "What about having some faith in humanity?" they said.

A staffer was leaving to catch the bus and one of our local street vermin came up to ask for hand sanitizer. When they didn't have any, he started screaming "YOU HAVE SHIT ON YOUR FACE" and other incoherent nonsense. They retreated and closed the garage door to wait it out, and the shambler somehow found some rocks to throw at the window until it broke.

So that's hundreds of dollars right there. (It's a very big piece of glass.)

Buy some pizza, ok?

We had put the plywood on the inside of the window instead of the outside because that was a lot easier (drilling into wood instead of into concrete) and because we were more concerned about robbery than vandalism. But clearly that was the wrong call.

This is why we can't have nice things. Or even shitty, halfassed things.

Did you hear that a few weeks ago some jerk tried to steal Lucky 13's sign?

After my previous post about the delivery services, a few people have asked: "Which of the delivery services are the best from DNA's perspective? Which give you the best deal?" It's hard to tell, since they obfuscate things so much, but each one is approximately as extortionate as the next, so we don't have a strong preference.

Postmates Grubhub Doordash Slicelife Allset

But if you call us on the phone (415-626-0166) and place an order for in-person pick-up, we don't have to turn over a full 30% of that transaction to a middleman. So if you're comfortable with leaving the house, obviously that's our preference!

Besides hustling pizza and to-go cocktails, we used to be a nightclub. Are you old enough to remember what nightclubs were, in The Before Times? Please tune in to our upcoming free webcasts -- that's what we do now, with our big empty room.

I had a lot of fun doing the video editing on the upcoming Burlesquerpiece Theatre and Star Crash programs, which I strongly recommend that you watch! Maybe my true calling all along had been to do production at a public access TV station. I guess you die Edison Carter or you live long enough to see yourself become Network 23. Speaking of which, please enjoy jwz mixtape 213. Yeah I'm still doing those.

Also we're still showing my collection of music videos on the webcast whenever we're not doing something else. And you can make requests. Not too many people are tuning in, but "webcast like nobody's watching", as they say. Do they say that yet?

Charles Lewis III wrote a very kind article about us in The Examiner today:

Keeping DNA Lounge on life support The legendary San Francisco nightclub was already struggling financially. Then COVID-19 happened.

"DNA Lounge is really a vortex for a lot of disparate Bay Area communities," said artist and journalist Larissa Archer. "It's one of the few places left in San Francisco where tech bros are outnumbered and are clearly not the target audience, yet DNA and its denizens welcome them and lets them be -- like we wish they'd do for us." [...]

Like the rest of the world, Zawinski isn't sure how things will play out once the pandemic ends. Nevertheless, local musicians remain optimistic that they'll grace a DNA stage again. Sophia Prise, who played the inaugural StarCRASH in January, is one such musician who isn't ready to see the Lounge disappear.

"The scene there is downright iconic: from the line wrapping around the club earlier on some nights to music fans of all stripes uniting at the adjoining pizza shop to get some late-night grub," she says. "We have had some of our brightest, most unpretentious music memories made there, and the culture isn't just novel; in my opinion, it's necessary."

We are fortunate that we are also a restaurant, so at least we have a tiny bit of income during the lockdown. Please help us out by ordering delivery from us! Pizza, sandwiches, liquor and delicious pre-mixed cocktails...


Speaking of which:

San Francisco Caps Commissions for Food Delivery Apps at 15 Percent:

Amid the pandemic lockdown, food delivery apps have been raking it in. But seeing San Francisco restaurants laying off workers and struggling to stay even barely afloat, Mayor London Breed -- at the urging of the Board of Supervisors -- has passed an emergency order that temporarily limits how much these apps can take from restaurants in commissions.

Commissions from delivery apps range from 10 to 30 percent, potentially wiping out any profit that a restaurant might make from a delivery order. And with less than half of San Francisco's restaurants remaining open for takeout and delivery, this means that many of the orders local residents are making in the hope of supporting local businesses are actually lining the coffers of companies like GrubHub and DoorDash. [...]

Some of the delivery companies, in order to encourage more food ordering, having been waiving delivery fees on the customer side. But they've been able to afford to do this by continuing to charge commissions to struggling restaurants -- which they charge even when customers place orders through the apps for pickup. [...]

GrubHub made an announcement as the lockdowns began that it was waiving commission fees paid by restaurants up to $100 million -- though the company later clarified, in arguably shady fashion, that the fees weren't so much being waived as they were being deferred, to be still owed at a later date.
I really have my doubts about whether this 15% cap is actually going to work, though, because these companies are excellent at obfuscating their fees and finding loopholes.

For example, looking at our latest invoice from GrubHub, they charged us: 17.5% "commission", 7.7% "delivery commission", and 3.24% "processing fee". And on top of that, we discovered that nobody was able to even find us on their site unless we also spent a few hundred bucks on "targetted promotions". Without that, you don't even show up in the search results.

So what do you want to bet they interpret that 15% cap as applying only to the 17.5% part? And then the 7.7% part goes up by 2.5%.

One of the bullshit things they did recently was push some "savings for supper" program where they encouraged you to agree to give people $10 off an order of $30 or more. But if you read the fine print, they didn't split the cost: it was just an amazing deal where the restaurant got to unilaterally give up another $10 off their already super-slim margins. What a bargain!

And also:

Lawsuit Claims Delivery Apps Cause Artificially Inflated Prices For Meals:

A proposed class action lawsuit filed Monday in New York claims that diners have been paying too much for meals delivered by Bay Area-based apps like DoorDash, Postmates, and Uber Eats. The suit contends that the companies are engaging in "anticompetitive conduct" and are acting as "monopolies" that could eventually kill the restaurant industry as we know it.

According to the suit [the food delivery apps] charge customers and restaurants fees that "are shocking when one considers how little value [they] provide to restaurants and consumers" as they "merely offer a list of local restaurants that can easily be found on Google or Yelp for free."

The best way for all of us, customers and restaurants alike, to avoid being gouged by those companies is for you to call us on the phone (415-626-0166) and place an order for pick-up. Not that I really expect people to do that... Nobody hates talking on the phone more than I do!

In other pandemic klept news: TicketBastard gonna TicketBastard: "Ticketmaster has quietly changed its refund policy to cover only canceled events -- not the many functions that promoters have indefinitely 'postponed' or rescheduled to a date/time that some ticketholders cannot make."

Last night we did a Hubba Hubba Revue "Best Of" show and pledge drive on the webcast. If you missed watching it live, you can check it out now on the tubes.

As pledge drives go, it went ok I guess? We had around 160 simultaneous viewers at the peak, and we made a few hundred bucks in donations. Which is not nothing. I mean, it's almost nothing, but it's not nothing.

We're doing it again next Friday: Burlesquerpiece Theatre Two: Electric Boogaloo! Add it to your busy social calendar.

As per tradition, we will have a drink special for this event, but you're gonna have to get it delivered! We've updated our menu of pre-mixed cocktails for delivery from DNA Pizza: Currently on the list are:

Black Manhattan; Sazerac; Negroni; Ketel Peach Lemonade; Rosemary Paloma; and Lavender Lemonade Cooler.

We deliver from 4pm to 10pm every day. Find us on Postmates, Doordash, Grubhub, AllSet and now SliceLife.