SB 905, the bill that would give San Francisco and several other cities the opportunity to allow some nightclubs to continue serving alcohol until 4AM made some real progress recently. It has made it through various committees and has now passed the State Senate with a vote of 28-8, and goes to the Governor to sign.
Funny story. We have a show coming up with Chemlab and C-Tec in a few weeks, and Barry was at the bank trying to send a wire transfer for their deposit to their management company. So he filled out the form,
- To: Cracknation
Reason: Deposit for Chemlab
The teller said, "Um, we can't do that. Say something else unless you want us both to be investigated."
Oh, you bankers. No sense of whimsy.
I hope you'll be joining us tonight for Hubba Hubba Revue's Twelfth Anniversary! That's no small number of years.
And it's that time of month, the mixtape time of month. Here's mixtape 198. I hope you enjoy it. I try to remember to link to these when I make blog posts here, but mostly I only remember to do that about every tenth time. So if this is how you find out about them, there are probably a bunch you haven't seen!
And it's also that time of year -- the time of year when you, yes you, go find the person at your place of employment who is in charge of planning your company holiday party, and convince them that they want to rent out the stylish and well-appointed DNA Lounge for said festivities. Please. Please do it.
It's time for The Guardian's Best of the Bay again, so go validate us, ok? Applicable categories include:
- Best Late-Night Restaurant: DNA Pizza
- Best Pizza: DNA Pizza
- Best Overall Bar: DNA Lounge
- Best Performance Space: DNA Lounge
- Best Live Music Venue: DNA Lounge
- Best Overall Nightlife Venue: DNA Lounge
- Best Overall Dance Party: Bootie SF, So Stoked, Wasted...
- Best Rock Club: DNA Lounge
- Best Burlesque: Hubba Hubba Revue
As long as we're here, let me draw your attention to a few upcoming events:
And there are a whole bunch of photos from recent events, since it's been about a month since my last blog post...
I am extremely sad to report that DNA Pizza's new hours will be:
- Sun - Thu: 4 PM to 3:30 AM
Fri - Sat: 4 PM to 5 AM
We're losing way too much money on our morning and lunchtime shifts, so we have to scale back.
There has been a pizza restaurant next door to DNA Lounge since 1990 (except for one year in the middle). Those previous restaurants were typically only open at night; they depended almost 100% on business from DNA Lounge and Slim's customers, and would often just be closed on nights when neither club had a show. In the later years, Bowser's Pizza never opened the dining room at all, selling slices exclusively through the pass-through window.
When we took over the space and opened DNA Pizza in 2011, my thinking was, "We're paying rent on this space 24 hours a day. Let's find a way to make money in each of those hours, not just one third of them."
Well, seven years later and it's time to give up on that idea. The restaurant portion of our business, taken in isolation (to the degree that that's possible) is in the black during pretty much any time that the nightclub is open; and deep in the red most other times. We have so little business during the breakfast and lunch shifts that the food we sell doesn't even cover the salaries of the 2 or 3 people it takes to run the restaurant during those hours.
San Francisco doesn't have enough 24 hour restaurants, or post-10 PM food options, or lunch spots that also have a café-like atmosphere, where it feels like you're welcome to hang out with a laptop for hours. I thought we could do something to help with that. I assumed that the lack 24 hour places was because the city makes it such a pain in the ass to get the permits, but maybe it's really because the people who live here just don't actually want them.
I guess we have proven that there is demand for late-night food, though. Even mid-week, when the club isn't open, the restaurant is still doing ok after midnight. But breakfast and lunch, not so much.
We tried so many things to make this place function as a daytime café, to no avail. We tried to find a local coffee company or café or other opinionated coffee nerd to run our coffee business; zero interest. We tried rolling out a mobile coffee/pastries cart onto the sidewalk in the mornings to try and snag some foot traffic; waste of time. We've tried to convince various pop-up restaurant people to take over the place for weekend brunch, or for anything, really; zero interest. We tried to reach out to local businesses to get them to order in for meetings and whatnot; nope.
Back in February, we scaled back our morning business, closing the doors to the dining room and only selling out of the pass-through window until 10 AM. That let us run with a smaller morning staff, which helped a bit, but still not enough to put those hours in the black.
I used to think that a part of the problem was that this neighborhood has absolutely no foot traffic during the day. I told myself: the few office buildings nearby have their own underground parking and dedicated cafeterias, so nobody ever leaves them. But then the food-truck court down the street opened up to prove me wrong. Clearly that's not the reason.
Well, it's time to stop theorizing, and just cut our losses. Whatever the reason is that we have no morning or lunch business, we're seven years in to not knowing how to fix it. So let's focus on the part that is working -- putting pizza into drunks -- and spend that money that we had been just setting on fire on something else instead.
Not that there's anything particularly wrong with merely being the food component of the nightclub, but I thought and hoped that it could be more than that (and consequently be both more interesting, and make more money).
The thing that sucks most about this is that fewer hours means fewer shifts, which means that we're going to have to lay off a bunch of people. But I'm just not in a position to keep paying salaries for people to stand around while no customers are walking in the door.
In short, everything is terrible. Join our Patreon.
This Sunday (SUNDAY, SUNDAY) you get to experience incredible robot bartenders serving you drinks, lovingly crafted with MAD SCIENCE by the finest competitors in the art of robotics and bartending.
You probably won't get wet. Probably.
Or disassembled. Probably.
I know I've posted about this a couple times already but that's because I legitimately love it so, and if you are reading this blog at all, I really think you will enjoy it as well.
We got a nice write-up in Make:
Each year the contestants are full of innovation and creativity. Past entrants who are returning include TikiTron by Dr. Bombay, which mixes eight cocktails from 12 ingredients and delivers them via glasses hidden deep in an active model volcano.
Another elegant robotic creation is the Tea Engine by Catherine, which serves tea from an antique 1920s coffee percolator that is ordered via rotary dial and served in fine China. There is an Arduino Uno in the rotary that reads the pulse dial for one of four options: plain tea, tea with peach schnapps, tea with ginger liquor, and tea with peach and ginger.
Prior to this! Can I interest you in Hubba Hubba Revue's Warrior Women show this Friday? The show opener will be a reprise of Dr. Kingfish and Ariyana La Fey doing their aerial re-enactment of the "Kill da Wabbit" bit from "What's Opera Doc". If you haven't seen this... you should see this.
And tomorrow being Friday the Thirteenth of July... it is the seventeenth anniversary of the re-opening of DNA Lounge on Friday the Thirteenth of July, 2001.
Seventeen years, WTF.
In other news, we finally sold our broke-ass La Marzocco espresso machine and bought a new one -- this time, an Izzo Alex Duetto IV. So that means you can get a delicious espresso now, right? Ha ha ha no. It's broken already. We can't have nice things.
Oh yeah, also we can't find our coffee grinders! We had two! They were like two feet tall and weighed a ton. I don't think we could have successfully thrown those away even if we tried -- our cleaning crew would have refused to take them. Which means someone must have put them "somewhere safe" that we have not yet located.
Anyway, come to some shows, k?
Always open with a joke, especially if it's a poop joke:
A guy walks into a bar and starts chatting with the manager. Suddenly the manager gets a radio call and says, "I gotta go, someone's poopin' on the sidewalk".
One of our regular local homeless crazies had gotten his hands on a framed painting of some kind. After running around in the street and harassing people for a while, he set the painting down in the middle of the street, took off his pants and squatted over it while cars honked and maneuvered around him. He could not be dissuated from this course of action -- everyone's a critic. Eventually, he completed the act.
After some time the cops showed up, and they said, "What do you call that?"
(Pause for applause.)
A little while ago, Barry and I happened to look at one of our calendar listings from a month in the early 'aughts, and we were struck by how few days we were open. For those first several years, we were open on average about 3 nights a week. It was pretty much every Saturday and most (but not all) Thursdays and Fridays, and a smattering of mid-week events. These days, we average 8 or 9 events per week, counting both rooms. We looked at that old calendar and said, "How the hell were we able to stay open??" Well, the answer is, we were losing money even back then. But not nearly as much as today! And we're also doing so much more business now -- and yet we're losing even more. How's that possible?
It's not just a "lose money on every sale but make it up in volume" situation. It's much simpler (and more annoying) than that.
Math time! Vague and highly approximate math!
Since those early years, our rent has gone up by around 2.5× and our insurance has gone up by around 4×. (That's counting only the main club side, and totally ignoring the rent due to DNA Pizza and Above DNA.) Minimum wage has gone from $9 to $15, plus now we have to cover medical benefits for all of our employees which we didn't before (which makes for an effective current minimum wage of more like $16.90).
Meanwhile, ticket prices have stayed pretty much exactly the same. Seventeen years later, people still expect small live shows to cost $8 to $12, and large live shows to be $15 to $18, or maybe $20 for a show that's going to sell out early. Big dance parties remain in the $12 to $20 range. People just won't pay more. Drink prices also have not kept pace with expenses, or even with inflation: I think our prices have only gone up by a couple bucks since then. A drink that cost $7 in 2001 still only costs $9 today.
Over that period, compounded inflation comes to 42%. That means that what you can buy for $1 today, you could get for 70¢ in 2001. If you were paying exactly the same price for it, that $18 ticket in 2001 should cost you almost $26 today.
In other words, the real cost of a drink or a concert ticket has actually gone down. Today's drink prices are 10% cheaper, and today's concert prices are 30% cheaper. What a bargain.
So we've tripled the number of events we do; and we now often do 18+ and all ages shows, which greatly increases the number of potential customers; and yet we're hemorrhaging even harder than before.
That's what happens when your cost of doing business increases by 3× or 4× but your income stays stable or decreases, even while you're moving 3× as much product! You have to run so, so much faster just to stand still.
By the way, just to fend off the Libertarians: I am completely in favor of everyone having healthcare. I think it should be considered a basic human right. But it sure would be nice if I didn't have to pay for the whole thing myself. Like, if we could maybe tax a billionaire or two?
Likewise, I'm in favor of people being paid a living wage for their work, but it's not like we have the option of saying, "Welp, our rent is crazypants, so now our cocktails are $25 and our weekend dance parties are $45. Hey wait, where are you going?" So the always-correct Invisible Hand of the Free Market is telling us, "Your product is not economical, therefore night clubs should not exist".
Or should be loss leaders for vertically-integrated multinational artist management cartels.
Everything is terrible, is what I'm saying. Join our Patreon.
Straws. Apparently they're the new Devil in town.
You may have noticed around town that straws in your drink are harder to come by lately. This is because we've all been hearing rumors for about a year now that some time soon a local ordinance is going to require plastic straws to be "by request only", so we've been giving that a try here at DNA for a little while now. Most people seem not to notice or care, so we're going through fewer straws. So that's fine.
Oakland recently went opt-in but it looks like the proposed SF ordinance is going to try to ban plastic straws entirely. And there's another proposed ordinance (or maybe it's the same one, I'm not sure) that would ban the use of all "single-use food service ware" (plates, cups, forks) on city property (which means every outdoor festival or street fair).
Some other SF bars and restaurants have already switched to paper straws, but mostly people hate those, because they get soggy and fail, you can't fuss with them at all without breaking them, and sometimes they feel like licking a popsicle stick (shudder).
Oh yeah, and they're way more expensive than the plastic ones. So there's that. Straws are a small part of the cost of each cocktail, but every little increase... sucks. A little while ago there was an article where someone from a local bar claimed that they were saving a bunch of money on their Recology bill because of diversion discounts due to paper straws, which sounded impossible to me. So I followed up on that, and yeah, they were very mistaken. So if you hear stories of how much more economical paper straws are, don't believe them.
And of course there's a paper straw shortage already, due to the sudden up-tick in demand. I just hope that by the time we're required to switch, the economies of scale will have driven the prices down. But more likely it's just going to be another instance of, "Great news, everybody! Your business just got more expensive to run!"
And this is all nonsense, anyway:
Plastic Straws Aren't the Problem: Skipping straws may be hip. But there are much better ways to fight pollution.
Two Australian scientists estimate that there are up to 8.3 billion plastic straws scattered on global coastlines. Yet even if all those straws were suddenly washed into the sea, they'd account for about .03 percent of the 8 million metric tons of plastics estimated to enter the oceans in a given year. [...]
Using surface samples and aerial surveys, the group determined that at least 46 percent of the plastic in the garbage patch by weight comes from a single product: fishing nets. Other fishing gear makes up a good chunk of the rest.
The impact of this junk goes well beyond pollution. Ghost gear, as it's sometimes called, goes on fishing long after it's been abandoned, to the great detriment of marine habitats. In 2013, the Virginia Institute of Marine Science estimated that lost and abandoned crab pots take in 1.25 million blue crabs each year.
But something must be done, and this is something, so we must do it. I guess.
It seems to me that recycling at the individual or small-business level is nothing but a placebo. Only the massive industrial scale matters. The ecological damage done by BP's Deepwater Horizon in a minute totally erased all of the trash-sorting you did in your entire life. Even discounting the fact that almost all of your "recycling" used to be made to magically disappear by shipping it to China -- but they've stopped taking it. So these days much of it goes straight into a domestic landfill anyway.
Using different straws or sorting your trash isn't going to save us from extinction. Our only hope is the immediate dismantling of the fossil fuel industry, plus planetary-scale carbon sequestration projects.
But that's hard, so let's ban straws instead, because that will make us feel like we're making a difference.
Our fifth annual Cocktail Robotics Grand Challenge is coming up on Sunday, July 15, which is about three weeks from now!
As you know, Bob, this is the event where people build robots that pour cocktails, hopefully in the most ridiculous way possible, and then you drink them. Sometimes the cocktails are good, and sometimes you get wet, but it's always fun to watch.
Unlike previous years, we've already got quite a few robot contestants! But we could always use more, so please pass the word along to your mechanically-inclined friends. (Or your drinkingly-inclined friends.)
This year, by request, we're also doing something new: if you want to bring your robot project just to show it off without actually entering the contest, then admission is free. So if your bar-bot isn't quite finished, or isn't really a bar-bot at all, sign up anyway! The more the merrier.
Hey, here's something glorious: using absurdly moralistic, anachronistic liquor laws as a force of Good! It won't do anything, of course, but as a piece of performance art, I give it an A+.
Trump Lacks Character for His Hotel to Keep Its Liquor License:
The Trump International Hotel in Washington shouldn't be allowed to serve alcohol because the hotel's ultimate owner, President Donald Trump, isn't of "good character," a group of religious leaders and former judges said in a complaint.
The group asked Washington's Alcoholic Beverage Control Board to investigate Trump and ultimately revoke his namesake hotel's license to serve liquor. [...] The complainants say that the allegations and evidence demonstrates that Trump fails to meet the beverage board's requirement that only people of "good character" qualify for the right to sell alcohol in Washington.
Some photos from recent events:
SF Weekly's Best of SF is out, and once again, DNA Lounge was voted "Best Dance Club"! Hooray! Go team!
Also of note, "Best New Club" went to Hotline, last here on March 30. That award is a little awkward, because while we had been doing it quarterly-ish, there's not currently another Hotline event coming up any time soon... schedules are conspiring against us for a while. Maybe later in the year?
I always wonder how snide I'm allowed to be when talking about a popularity contest that we won, but let me just say that my big takeaway from the "Editor's Picks" this year is that we now live in a city where you can go somewhere and pay a "Bong Steward" to wipe off your bong for you. So that's where we are now. As a society.
So here's something funny that has happened twice now, by which I mean not funny at all. We have a urinal in one of the restrooms in the club that is feeling less than fresh. Twice now, a plumber has walked into the pizza place, and asked "Where's the bathroom?" They quite sensibly point random-dude at the restaurant's bathroom, where he proceeds to "fix" the non-broken urinal in there. If our plumbers would tell us the time, or even the day, that they are planning to show up we could do a better job of intercepting them with someone who actually knew what's going on, but ha ha ha ha that's just not how plumbing is done, Son.
"The DNA Lounge Story: Mostly Plumbers and Permits."
Tomorrow night: May The Fourth Be With You! Star Wars costume contest! Go-go dancers! Galactic raving! Sarlacc the Magnificent and the Execution of the Prisoners!
There was a time, and that time was neither long ago nor far, far away, when being a San Franciscan meant that you had a closet, and you also had a costume closet. At least once a month there was some costume-themed event; one had to be prepared. This was a town that knew how to dress up, and did so frequently and with vigor.
Less so these days. Our recent attempts at costume-themed events aimed at our traditional Death Guild / Hubba demographic have been received with, let's say, insufficient enthusiasm to make them viable. So this time we decided to get some real headliner DJs and make it a legitimate dance party instead. There's one community in town who are still wildly enthusiastic about dressing up for their night of clubbing, and that's the ravers.
I think it was Yoda who said, "I believe the children are our future."
Case in point: a couple weeks ago we had a Peelander-Z show that we booked at kind-of the last minute. We already had a four room So Stoked party booked that night, so we were going to do Peelander-Z as an early show... but then we thought, what the hell, let's just combine the two. So a weird Japanese cartoon punk band (and Chaki the Funk Wizard, who is hard to describe using any other words than those) were the opening acts at a candy rave... And it worked! In addition to the people who obviously came for Peelander-Z, there were a lot of ravers in the audience who had looks on their faces like, "I have no idea what I am seeing right now, but I'm definitely sticking around."
They say that the Grinch's heart grew three sizes that day.
So what I'm getting at is if you're a tired old goth who's thinking, "Meh, a Star Wars party sounds fun, but meh, meh, they probably aren't going to play any music that I already know, meh"... you're right! But you should give it a try! You can stand around at a dance party ignoring music that you don't know, instead of standing around at a dance party ignoring music that you were tired of by your sophomore year in college!
Speaking of the Olden Times, tickets are selling briskly for Killing Joke, and rightly so: they are a fantastic live band! Get yours before it sells out.
But you know what? If every goth band who has hit us up asking to open for Killing Joke had bought four tickets instead, the show would have sold out the day it went on sale... If only all of these bands showed similar enthusiasm for the remaining tatters of our local live music scene...
Further speaking of the Olden Times, here's a nice profile on Steve Koepke, keeper of "The List". I remember pouring over paper copies of that, back in the Late Cretaceous. And then in like... 1994? I vaguely recall that I wrote some code to download it once a week and cross-reference it with my music collection to give me an alert when I band I like was coming to town. It was a couple hundred lines of Emacs-Lisp. Since then, there have been a dozen failed startups that didn't accomplish much more. Good times.
Photos of recent events! And a few less-recent ones that I finally found galleries of.
The SF Weekly Best of SF poll is up again, so vote for us, won't you?
Relevant categories include: Best Dance Party, Best Dance Club, Best Live Theatre (Hubba Hubba Revue or Mortified), Best Live Music Venue, Best Late Nite Bite and Best Pizza.