As is traditional, Halloween is a week-long affair for us here at DNA Lounge. We've got you covered:
- A Halloween-candy candy rave,
- a spooky Russian rockabilly / surf-rock band who love Ed Wood,
- the world's biggest mashup party in all four rooms and with a costume contest,
- the nation's longest-running goth club, plus goth burlesque,
- and finally our epic actual-Halloween blowout, in now its seventeenth year!
If none of that floats your boat, I think you should seek help.
Did you know that there's only one Spirit store in SF this year? I mean, it was never very good, and we have better costume shops in town, but one? There used to be one every six blocks! This used to be a Halloween Town. What is this world coming to.
A friend is DJing a Halloween-themed event tonight and I asked, "Do people dress up for that?" He said, "No, it's a college crowd, so if they dress up at all it's just in a fuckin' onesie."
You can do better, San Francisco. Show us what you got.
A few weeks ago I happened to be reading the server logs at shortly after door-time for one of our dance parties, and that night, dozens of people were trying to buy online tickets after doors had opened. They were unable to because tickets were already off-sale. Tickets had gone off sale half an hour before doors, because that's when we printed out our will-call and guest list on paper and walked it to the front door, so that the names could then be checked off with a pen.
Those were dozens of people who said to us, "Hello, please take my money," and we said to them, "No, we would rather not take your money." Now that's just rude. When someone tries to give you money, you say, "Yes, thank you."
So, I wrote a bunch of software to throw at the problem.
Phase one is that we're now using iPads and/or Android tablets at the front door instead of a clipboard and a stack of paper. Clicking a checkbox on the tablet synchronizes that checkbox with the server and with every other tablet (since we often have more than one person working the list at the same time). When a new ticket is sold, or when someone is added to the guest list, those new names automatically show up on the tablets. (I'm using WebSockets for the inter-client communication, so all of this happens pretty close to real-time, assuming the wifi network is working properly.)
Phase two, and the ultimate goal of this exercise, is that now tickets don't go off-sale until the event is almost over. They go off sale an hour before the scheduled end of the event, or 3AM, whichever is earlier.
Now obviously we'd prefer for you to buy your tickets weeks in advance. We like it when you commit, because then you tell your friends that you have committed, and maybe they commit too. Also it gives us a much better idea of how many people we can expect, which helps us staff appropriately.
But, if you can't get your shit together until ten minutes before the headliner goes on, and you want to buy a ticket online -- we're gonna let you!
If it hasn't sold out, you can always pay cash at the door with no service fee, but if it's busy, the pre-sale line is always shorter and faster, so that's your trade-off.
Governor Brown just vetoed the 4AM bill, SB 905, as one of his last acts before he term-limits out. This despite it having passed the Senate with 28-8. Reading between the lines, his veto is probably because of lobbying from SFPD and MADD.
So San Francisco is not allowed to have the Demon Liquor between 2am and 4am, but meanwhile in Michigan, Axe Bars are a thing:
Ax-throwing bar deemed unsafe, has liquor license suspended for 1 day:
Drinking alcohol while throwing axes, ax-throwers wearing open-toed shoes, a lack of monitoring by bar management and axes ricocheting off targets in the direction of participants were among the concerns listed by Michigan Liquor Control Commission investigators who visited the bar. [...]
"A licensed establishment that allows alcohol-consuming patrons to throw potentially injurious and even deadly weapons posed significant concern," said the state office of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs [...] "While the Commission does not regulate ax throwing or any other sport - and it is not contrary to the law for sporting activities to take place in liquor licensed establishments - once the investigation [...etc etc...]"
The following are additional concerns noted by the Michigan Liquor Control Commission:
- Patrons throwing axes at bottles of spirits, consuming shots from the bottle that was not struck.
- A person flipping the axe in mid-air and catching it with the other hand before throwing the axe at the target.
- Three people identified in the video as coaches throwing axes at one target at the same time.
- A person attempting to balance feet on a strap, walking barefoot (tightrope style), carrying and tossing an axe at the target.
- A person juggling two axes before tossing them at the target.
Nobody has approached us about doing axe-themed events, in case you were wondering. But coincidentally, last week at the Lincoln Durham show, he was using an actual axe that had been strung up as a guitar. I had not seen precisely that before.
A couple of recent local tragedies:
Modesto Figuerido, AKA Cuba, was killed by a hit-and-run drunk driver last week. Cuba had lived on 11th Street for at least 20 years, and it's hard to imagine him no longer being a fixture here. Butter held a memorial service for him, and there's a small shrine near 11th and Folsom.
"He had the constitution of a cockroach," said Butter bar owner Vlad Cood, who would call hospitals in search of Fegurdo when he went missing from 11th Street. "I didn't think anything could kill him."
"The District Attorney's Office has not yet decided whether to press charges against Quiton [the hit-and-run drunk driver]." So that's just great, too. In case you hadn't noticed, it's straight-up legal to murder people as long as you do it with a car. It's like our own version of The Purge.
I'm heart-broken Virginia Ramos - the Tamale Lady - has passed. Virginia was an institution in bars in the Mission, Castro & SOMA. We changed the law to legalize her business - selling tamales in bars - as part of our effort to allow home cooks to earn a living. RIP, Virginia.
In DNA news -- hey, do you wanna work here?
It is so hard finding staff these days! Getting hired at the restaurant is pretty straightforward:
- Answer the ad;
- Arrange a date to come in for an interview;
- Actually show up for the interview.
I swear, if you can do all of those things -- pretty much we're gonna hire you to sling pizza. But out of about every thirty people who make it past step 2, only one makes it to step three. And 100% of the time, the people who don't just no-show, with no explanation or apology. Even for the management positions! Now maybe I'm just old fashioned, but I think that if you've said, "Ok, see you then" to someone and then decide not to go, you owe them an email. In pretty much any context! But especially if you'd like there to be a chance of that person ever hiring you at any time in the future.
So rude. So rude.
We also had a secret / private show with Weezer on Tuesday. I know there were several photographers there but we haven't gotten our hands on any of the photos yet. (Yes, they played Africa, no, Weird Al wasn't there.)
CBC just did a great undercover investigation of Ticketmaster:
'A public relations nightmare': Ticketmaster recruits pros for secret scalper program.
Box-office giant Ticketmaster is recruiting professional scalpers who cheat its own system to expand its resale business and squeeze more money out of fans, a CBC News/Toronto Star investigation reveals.
The article is long and kind of buries the lead, but Boing Boing has a good summary:
Ticketmaster's shows are notorious for selling out in seconds to bot-running scalpers who then mark up the tickets and sell them for many multiples of their face-value. Ticketmaster has always maintained that these scalpers were unfortunate and undesirable parasites that preyed on Ticketmaster, the performers and the audience alike. [...]
But a CBC/Toronto Star undercover investigation has revealed that Ticketmaster runs a secret, parallel system called "Tradedesk" that encourages the most prolific scalpers to create multiple accounts to circumvent the company's limits on ticket sales, and then allows them to re-list those tickets for sale in its "brokerage" market, which nominally exists to allow fants who find themselves with a spare ticket or two to sell it other fans. According to Ticketmaster reps who were unaware they were being secretly recorded, the most successful scalpers use this system to make as much as $5 million/year. [...]
Ticketmaster issued a non-denial-denial to the Star and CBC, and implied that this was a case of rogue employees doing naughty things. But the misdeeds that the journalists caught on video came from a wide variety of Ticketmaster staffers, acting on behalf of the company at a major trade-show, with no hedging or any sense that they were offering access to something untoward. What's more, the CBC/Star report is backed up by a leaked copy of Ticketmaster's handbook for professional "resellers."
In a separate investigation, the CBC/Star team showed how Ticketmaster manipulates ticket prices in realtime using deceptive tactics (withholding blocks of tickets until mid-sale, then releasing them at above-face-value prices) to bilk fans out of more money. Hilariously, Ticketmaster blamed this on the "promoter" of the concert, which was Livenation -- the company that owns Ticketmaster.
Why would a venue choose to sell tickets through Ticketmaster? Well, if a venue is selling tickets through Ticketmaster, it's usually because that venue is Ticketmaster.
You may recall from my earlier round-up on the corporate consolidation of live music that TicketMaster sells 80% of all tickets in the US, and their parent company, Live Nation, own 117 venues and exclusively books 33 others, including The Fillmore, The Masonic, Cobb's, Punch Line, and most recently, August Hall (formerly Ruby Skye).
AEG (through their Golden Voice division) and Another Planet have a somewhat larger corporate footprint in the Bay Area than Live Nation, but Live Nation is the largest internationally.
So, you know. Pucker up, buttercup.
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.