The Castro Theatre is turning over control to Another Planet:

The 100-year-old theater, known throughout the world as one of the symbols of San Francisco's historic LGBTQ Castro neighborhood, will be renewed as a live events venue with music, comedy, film and more as Another Planet Entertainment takes over its programming.

The Berkeley independent [sic] concert promotion company -- which promotes hundreds of local concerts annually at venues like Berkeley's Greek Theatre, the Fox Theater in Oakland and the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco, as well as co-produces the Outside Lands music festival in Golden Gate Park -- has signed a long-term contract, with plans to [...] broaden the programming at the 1,400-capacity venue to include live music, comedy and community events. The Castro will still screen select films, but the changes are sure to be earthshaking for many Bay Area film organizations and movie fans who have been filling the Castro for decades.

"It's heartbreaking, devastating, and not surprising," said Marc Huestis, who has presented special events at the Castro Theatre for 40 years. [...] "Even before COVID, it was like repertory theater was kind of on its last legs," Huestis continued. "It makes me very emotional because it's just such an important cultural institution and the heartbeat of not only the neighborhood but of the city."

As a fan of both old movies and live music, one might expect me to feel conflicted about this. While losing another repertory movie theatre is awful, gaining another live music venue should be good, right? But, no, this is just another tragedy. Understandable, perhaps, but still tragic.

I don't understand how anyone gets away with calling Another Planet an "independent" company, unless your definition of "independent" is "not publicly traded". I guess NIVA defines "independent" as "anyone who is not Live Nation or AEG", but the reality is that Another Planet are the short leg of the corporate triad who monopolize the live music scene in the Bay Area and beyond.

It's true that APE is the smallest of the three, and they're "local", but they have the same business model as Live Nation and AEG: anti-competitive lock-in through vertical integration and festival radius clauses. They're still monopolists, they're just smaller.

And even though whatever kind of live music they end up doing at The Castro won't be the sort of thing that we do at DNA Lounge -- we're not a "1,400 capacity all-seated" kind of place -- this sort of corporate consolidation hurts all of us small businesses who are actually independent, because it increases APE's monopoly power.

As I explained in detail back in 2018, monopolies are bad. They are bad for consumer choice, they are bad for ticket pricing, they are bad for artists getting paid, they are bad for your local music scene, and they are bad for our culture as a whole.

But as with Slim's (RIP) and Mezzanine (RIP), it's hard to fault the Castro's owners for taking whatever Faustian bargain is offered. It's grim out there.

You may have heard that a number of local venues have decided to close down for a few weeks because of Omicron. That cannot have been an easy decision for them, especially over New Year's Eve, and I commend them on it.

However, DNA Lounge will be open on New Year's Eve, featuring both Bootie and Megalodon. And if you're going out clubbing right now, DNA Lounge is probably the safest place you can go. The "if" in that sentence is admittedly doing a lot of heavy lifting. But, we have consistently had the strictest vaccination policy of any nightclub in town, and probably the nation. We are literally the only venue that actually scans your QR code. You can be about as sure as you can be that you're not sharing the room with the unvaccinated.

Sadly, CDC still says that "un-boostered" counts as "fully vaccinated", which is patently false.

I wish I didn't have to say these things out loud, but I probably do:

  • Please, please, please get your booster shots. If you are more than six months out from your first vaccination, you are now effectively only half vaccinated or less.

  • Stop wearing fabric masks and bandanas. They do not help at all with Omicron. You need N95, KN95 or FFP2 now. You can wear your "pretty" mask on top of your "real" mask.


  • And FFS, stop pulling down your mask at the bar to shout-spit your order at the bartender! It has been two years, do you still not understand how this works?

A couple of changes coming up here at ye olde DNA Lounge:

First: starting in mid-January, we're going to be requiring boosters for entry to DNA Lounge, for anyone who is more than six months out from their first round. And the only reason we're waiting that long to begin is that it is still proving a bit difficult for people to get booster appointments. So, you have a few weeks. Take care of your problem now. We don't enjoy standing on the sidewalk listening to you tell us how it's "not fair" and "you didn't know".

Second: we're about to start doing weekly rapid PCR testing (that's the real kind) on all of our staff. The testing will be done on site by Discovery Health, in case you're interested in doing the same at your own business.

It's not cheap, and we have to pay for it ourselves. Gee, isn't that the sort of thing the departments of health should be paying for, as a part of the national pandemic strategy? Ha ha ha, there is no strategy. We are still living in a Libertarian hellscape where our Federal and local governments are pretending that we can all just "personal choice" our way out of this. All of us small businesses are left needing to pick and choose our own policies about things that should be national or at least state-wide legal requirements, and we're all going to die.

You know, us small businesses that Maskless Mayor Breed calls the "fun police".

You may have heard that CDC cut the quarantine time in half at based on the research of noted scientist... checks notes... Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta Airlines. CDC is also also running ads that basically say, "Get vaccinated so you don't starve". It's pretty great to see such vivid proof that instead of protecting people, they are protecting capital. Some of my favorite responses to the unscientific quarantine reduction:

Anyway, New Year, huh?

Last year I did a "What have we accomplished this year?" post... This is the part, I am told, where I am supposed to say something positive and uplifting. I'm not really feeling it right now, but let's give it a try:

In the first few months of the year, we did a whole lot of remodeling. We have a new dance floor! We made some major upgrades to our sound and lighting systems. We were able to do these things thanks to some generous donors, and for that we are incredibly grateful.

In the first half of the year, while we were still closed, we also did a bunch of parklet parties. They were fun, but, they had like tens of people attend, so it wasn't much of a substitute for actually being a nightclub.

Then we finally got to re-open at the end of June! People were finally able to crawl out from under their rocks, pale and fish-like, squinting at the light. It looks like this year we had around 200 in-person, in-door events, including 29 live shows (regrettably under-attended though they were). In July it seemed like things were slowly starting to return to normal... and then Delta happened and everyone got afraid. And then Omicron happened and, well, you know.

Despite that, we had some pretty great live shows. Here are just a few samples. Plus, Halloween Week was fantastic, and we got to do another Cyberdelia. And a whole bunch of Hubbas! We also once again won "Best Nightclub", "Best Dance Party" and "Best Burlesque" in Best of the Bay.

So, what did that all amount to? We got to actually run our business for half of the year, and that half was at way less than half capacity. But, we got to employ our staff, and we got to give our community a relatively safe opportunity to leave the damned house so that they could try to avoid completely losing their minds.

That quarter was a very long year, is what I'm saying.

So uh, Happy New Year. Try not to die.

That was a good start. Now abolish the ABC!

Turns out, our nation's crumbling buildings include this one.

Last month, during the heavy rains and heavier winds, some chunks of concrete fell off our building! They weren't huge, but still not the sort of thing you want coming at you from 30' in the air. So it was time to do some concrete repairs. They basically walked the face of the building and any time they saw a crack, they'd hit it with a hammer and chisel until pieces stopped falling out. Then they filled in the holes. For some of the corner bits, they had to build molds.

Some of the concrete comprising our front wall is only 20 years old (the part inside those 8 large inset rectangles on the first and second floor) but the rest of it is 98 years old at this point. Pieces will be falling off of you at that age too.

And, since the scaffolding was up anyway, we also had them give us a snazzy new two-tone paint job. It looks very nice.

And, just a reminder that both the club and DNA Pizza are closed Thursday and Friday. We'll see you Saturday for Bootie's Dranksgiving.

"Did you do anything special to celebrate it?"

"What do you mean, all of our events are special!"

Actually last night was pretty amazing, and I saw something that I have never seen before -- and at my advanced age, that doesn't happen very often.

Monday Night Hubba presented Just Add Heather, where they brought in an actual oven, and our host sang, with a full band and burlesque performers, while also baking apple tarts!

They auctioned off the tarts at the end. I bought one. It was delicious!

They had been doing this show as a weekly webcast during the pandemic, but this was their first time doing it out in the real world.

It looks like I haven't done a photo roundup post since August. There are a ton of new galleries, so I'm not going to list them all, but let me particularly draw your attention to the Halloween galleries:

And I'll also highlight only our live shows of the past three months:

iOS 15.1 was just released, and now you can store your SMART-Health QR code in your wallet, so you can access it from the lock screen, along with your event tickets! You have to re-scan your code to do it, though. Just point the camera at your QR code, let it open it in the Health app, and say OK.

The SMART-Health codes are getting more prevalent, too. As of a few weeks ago, Rick Klau figured that about 50% of the country have access to SMART Health QR codes now. They are supported by the state systems in CA, LA, NY and HI, but are also available to anyone vaccinated at CVS, Walmart, Sam's Club, or any health system that uses Epic or Cerner. And pretty soon now, all of Canada will be on this system too. Here's a full list of participating systems.

It would be great if there was a cheat sheet along the lines of, "my insurance is X, where do I click?" but that does not seem to exist.

Sadly, DNA Lounge is still the only nightclub in town that is actually going to scan that code, because literally everyone else is gleefully accepting photoshop forgeries of vaccination cards. Everyone else, including SFDPH, believes that scribbling your name on someone else's vax card in Comic Sans counts as proof of vaccination.

As a vaccinated person who would still prefer not to catch COVID-19, I remain unpleased about this situation.

Anyway, it's Halloween Week! Are you ready for our eight events over seven nights, and three different costume contests? And most importantly, have you seen our giant skeleton?

14-Oct-2021 (Thu) Wherein a winnar is us!

As foretold by prophecy, you the people have once again declared DNA Lounge to be "Best Nightclub", Bootie Mashup to be "Best Dance Party" and Hubba Hubba Revue to be "Best Burlesque" in the 2021 Best of the Bay.

(Best Dance Party runner-up: Death Guild.)

Thank you again for your support!

If you want to see what the fuss is about, well, this is a good weekend for it! This Saturday at 7pm, Hubba Hubba Revue presents Murder Mansion!

And directly following, and every Saturday, we have Bootie Mashup, this week presenting a tribute to oldies from the 2010s.

I also strongly recommend Turbo Drive on Friday, with Night Club, One True God, and a secret special guest. It will be a great show!

Newsom signed some bills, so this is how it works now, I guess?

  • Parklets are now fully legal, not temporary. Bars and restaurants can continue to serve food and booze outside.

  • Take-out cocktails are only allowed with food, and are limited to two drinks per meal.

  • Delivery cocktails are no longer allowed.

The article also says, "restaurants will still be able to sell bottles of wine and cans of beer for delivery, as those are in the manufacturer's original packaging", so I guess that means that we will still be allowed to sell our DNA Lounge brand liquor bottles to go, since they're sealed from the distillery. One liter equals one drink? Not that we sell very many of those.

We stopped selling our batched, to-go cocktails in mason jars a while ago, because they were just not selling any more. But for those bars and restaurants who were still doing good business with to-go and delivery batched cocktails, this is kind of a kick in the teeth.

Also related, another bill that everyone hoped would make permanent the 15% cap on the delivery apps' extortionate fees, was gutted. Instead of requiring a cap, It just requires "transparency". So now they have to itemize why they are charging you 30%. And I guess you'll feel better about that somehow?

In DNA news:

Attendance has been slowwwwly picking up. Interestingly, it's mostly a younger crowd. Maybe the 30-plus folks are more afraid of Delta than the kids are, who knows.

We did have some antivaxxer idiots show up the other day. It was before doors, and they just stood there yelling at us for a while. We are "sheep", apparently. This was on a night when I understand that there was a sportsball game of some kind, so presumably these were tourists from the Central Valley, the Red State part of California that is still dying in droves.

In other "Get Off Of My Lawn" news, a number of our staff have been noting that "these kids today" just don't know how to behave in public. We know what 18-year-olds are like, but recently they have been, uh, worse. But then someone made a very salient observation: when lockdown began, these 18-year-olds were 16! So, no, they don't know how to behave in public because they've literally never had to before. Can you imagine what it would have been like to spend the last half of high school at home on your couch? They're all homescooled bubble babies!

Halloween Week is almost upon us, and as per tradition, you can get a Five Night Multipass!

This ticket admits one person to seven parties over five nights: Sequence, Star Crash, All Hallow's Eve, Booootie, Technolatry, So Stoked and Death Guild! (Note: one person, five nights. This does not get five people into one party on the same night, or any other combination.)

Other items of note:

  • This year's All Hallow's Eve poster is on sale! Complete your set.

  • I know many of you are sick of wearing masks, but masking is here to stay, maybe for the rest of our lives, so I'm here to tell you that if you want to get some of our fabulous and stylish DNA Lounge Dazzle Face Masks, now is the time, because our inventory is down to like a dozen or so remaining. Our mask sales have dropped off quite a bit, so we probably won't order more. Get them while you can, and remember, each one is unique! The patterns on them are randomized, and guaranteed to prevent the enemy from getting a lock on your heading and range.

  • Have you voted for us in Best of The Bay yet? Voting closes on Monday. Those categories again:

    • 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
    • Nightclub trying hardest to keep you alive during a global pandemic: DNA Lounge

    Ok, that last one isn't a real category, but it should be.

Charles Lewis III writes in The Chronicle:

How to have fun in S.F. during COVID without behaving like you're in Florida:

That was until two weeks ago, when I attended Cyberdelia, the DNA Lounge's annual screening of the '90s cult flick "Hackers." I considered it a measured risk. Since the start of the pandemic, both the San Francisco club and owner Jamie Zawinski have been overly cautious about the safety of their clientele.[...] DNA Lounge now has some of the strongest vaccination and mask requirements of any private business in the country -- requiring a physical vaccination card, not an easily manipulated photo.

Little did I know that San Francisco Mayor London Breed had spent the previous night on Sept. 15 having a mask-free, close-quarters good time at the Black Cat in the Tenderloin. Given that her health officer set the city's mask policy, people were understandably pissed to see her not following it. Confronted with her hypocrisy, she took a hard-line stance against the "fun police" and their silly idea that someone who sets policy is subject to it.

That's the kind of reaction we'd expect from the governors of Texas or Florida, not the mayor of San Francisco.

How the hell can we expect people to respect COVID safety protocols when those who set the rules are the ones who refuse to follow them? Mandates may change but mask wearing is going to be with us for a while. We can't expect all businesses, schools or other venues to be like the DNA Lounge, which decided not to wait for city or state guidance to issue its own mask and vaccination requirements. [...]

Unbeknownst to me, San Francisco writer Violet Blue was also at Cyberdelia, and she wrote about the immeasurable comfort and joy of knowing you're safe around people who all had to meet those same requirements you did.

We all deserve that. For someone in a public position of power and influence to skirt those rules means they think they're better than the very people they're meant to serve.

Relatedly, someone complained to SFDPH about our vaccination policies, and a couple days ago they emailed us saying, "The Health Order provides a number of options for patrons to use to show proof of vaccination, but our understanding is that your policy does not include all of them."

Yeah, that's right, because that Health Order says that taking a photo of someone else's vaccination card and scribbling your name and birthday on it in Comic Sans counts as proof of vaccination.

Or, as one of our managers more politely replied to them,

We require a physical vaccination card or a verifiable QR code, in conjunction with a valid government ID in order to enter our venue at this time. [...] We feel that, given the inherent risks involved in the prolonged indoor exposure at night clubs and bars, anything less than our current policy would be the same as just allowing unvaccinated patrons inside.

I am, however, glad that you reached out, because I am particularly concerned about the absolute lack of vaccination verification occurring at other bars in San Francisco at the moment. As I'm sure you're aware if you've been out anywhere, it appears that nobody is even scanning QR codes, let alone actually verifying cards (or photos of cards) against physical IDs. If you have the time to pursue individual business' enforcement policies I would encourage you to look into it. I know we're all invested in limiting the spread of Covid and the vaccination requirement sure is pointless if it's not actually being enforced.

You will be unsurprised to learn that DPH's reply did not address that second paragraph.

Readers, I'd love to know what your experience been with vaccination checks, or lack thereof, at other venues in town. And whether what they're doing made you feel more safe, or less. More likely to return, or less. Reply in the comments!

Here, I'll start:

At the Folsom Street Fair last weekend, here's how it went at the 11th and Harrison gate: I pulled up my CA DPH QR code on my phone and showed it to the person doing the check. They looked at for less than a second, from about 5 feet away, and waved me through. Not only were they too far away to even see what I was showing them on my phone, they didn't ask for ID to see if it was my vaccination in the first place!

I'm told that at other gates, there were effectively two lines: one for people voluntarily going through this security theatre, and another for the people who just barreled through unchallenged.