Well that was a little scary. I had just seen a movie (High Fidelity, it's great) and was riding home when I saw this giant plume of black smoke in the sky. I was trying to guess where it was (6th Street maybe?) when Barry called and told me that our architect had just called him and said "hey, I think your club is on fire!" Barry was a little incredulous at this: "I know it's April 1st, don't screw around with me like this!" "No, really!" So he called a friend down on 11th Street who said, "dude, the whole block is on fire."
But fortunately for us, he meant the next block over: the alley between between 11th and 12th streets, not 11th Street itself (where the club is.) So I biked home to get my camera, and headed toward the fire, like a good little monkey. By the time I got there, there was a huge crowd of people, and the smoke was pretty thick. Apparently I had missed the height of the fire, though: a little while before I got there, the whole sky had been black.
I asked the security guard at the construction site on the corner if I could climb up their scaffold to get better pictures, but he wouldn't go for it. So these were as close as I could get:
Apparently the fire started at the City Lights warehouse, but it looked to me like at least one apartment building was on fire as well.
On Tuesday, we discovered that our refrigerator had stopped working. Specifically, it had stopped cooling, and started heating: apparently it had been blowing hot air at the beer for several days before we noticed. We had a fridge guy come have a look at it, and, surprise surprise, the compressor is shot. "You wouldn't believe how much dust was inside that thing," he said. "Oh yes I would," I said. Apparently you're supposed to have the things serviced every three months; the previous owners hadn't so much as dusted it in four years.
I'm starting to wonder if I actually bought anything that works.
Well, we were considering getting a bigger fridge anyway, so that we could run subterranean lines from the kitchen to the bars for beer: that way the kegs can always stay in the back, and nobody has to lug them through the crowds at the club during the night. To do that, we'd need more room in the fridge.
The lines that carry the beer from the back to the front are pretty cool, they're called "glycol lines" (no, I don't know what that means) and the lines themselves are refrigerated, so you don't lose all the beer that sits in the pipeline over night: except for the first cup or so, which will be foamy because of gravity, it's as good as if it had been in the keg all along. It's expensive stuff, though: on the order of $90/foot.
Most places (including the DNA) do this sort of thing already with sodas and mixers: the concentrated syrup and juice boxes will be in a closet somewhere rather than behind the bar, and the concentrate is forced through tubes by a CO2 tank. They are then mixed with water, chilled, and fizzy-fied at the bar.
This week we also learned more about all the legal complications that exist between liquor distributors and bars. Like so many permitting issues, it's all very strange. Presumably this legal tangle stretches all the way back to Prohibition.
For example, I'll bet you assumed that bars are able to buy liquor more cheaply than ordinary people can buy it at the store, didn't you? After all, they buy it in bulk. Well, no! It turns out that bars pay more for liquor than you would pay for it at CostCo, because there's an extra 5-cents-per-drink tariff tacked on there for some reason. And of course, to prevent the obvious workaround, bars are only allowed to buy their liquor from licensed liquor distributors, they can't just go pick it up at a store. Do that, and you can lose your license. The bottles also have to be exactly one liter, for some reason I don't understand (sometimes the bottles are labeled "bar liter", which makes me wonder whether a "bar liter" is defined to be different than a "liter liter." That wouldn't surprise me at all.)
On the hygiene side, the place is now both clean and exterminated, and you can't imagine how happy that makes me. We hired a totally kick-ass cleaning crew who scrubbed out all the nooks and crannies, and the place is immaculate. Well, let's say, immaculate for a garage. But still, it's pretty darned good. We also had an exterminator come in and take care of that pesky roach problem. They coated the club with boric acid, which as I understand it, is a dessicant rather than a poison, so what it does is suck all the moisture out of little insect bodies so that they can't breathe. He said that the worst it would do to a mammal would be to cause a dry mouth. It may be a few weeks before they're all dead, but they're on the way out.
By an amazing coincidence, the exterminator we called at random out of the yellow pages happened to be the guy who keeps Za Spot, the pizza place next door to the DNA, bug free. Za doesn't have roaches, so that was all the endorsement we needed.
Oh, we got a call from the police just letting us know that they've already received noise complaints about the DNA. This is a good trick, since we haven't been open once since we took over ownership. Also apparently some anonymous tipster called them to complain that we had "ripped out all of the existing soundproofing." I expect we're going to have to deal with lies and deceit like this all the time, and I should just get used to it, but it's just so lame!
I was out of town for the last week and a half, thus the delay in updating this page.
Our previously-mentioned soon-to-be-former electrician is now our former electrician. And there was much rejoicing.
While I was gone, we finally managed to pass our electrical inspection, after having the inspector come out three times in one week (which, as you might expect, did not make the inspector happy.) This was needed because of multiple situations like: the inspector points to a strand of work-lights and says "those are temporary lighting, they can't be up there. Take those down." Then our STBF-electrician would say "ok" and spend hours nailing that cable to the ceiling. The inspector would come back and say "I told you to take that down." Amazing. But we finally passed.
It looks like next week or the week after, we're going to be replacing the front wall of the building. Well, about half of it, anyway: there are four cement pillars, and the rest of it is made of kleenex, so we're going to rip all that out and pour a brand new foot-thick concrete wall. This is, of course, insanely expensive, but it sounds like the cheapest way to soundproof that wall, and there's no way we'll be able to meet the city's current noise requirements if we don't do something this drastic. (The fact that the club has been operating this way for the last 25 years doesn't make any difference: I'm screwed regardless. Because the business has changed ownership, they expect me to meet the current standards. This is just one of the many ways in which it sucks to be me.)
We discovered that when we turn off the main circuit breaker, it also turns off the second floor of the pizza place next door. So DNA has been paying half of their electricity since the beginning of time.
Today we had a bunch of guys come in and take down all the stage lights, clean them, and figure out which ones work, which ones just need lamps, and which ones are shot. It looks like most of them are ok.
Oh, after my comment above about Glycol lines, I found out what that is: it's antifreeze, pretty much just like the green goo that's in your car. I got mail from a fellow who said "we used glycol lines everywhere at South Pole Station..."
We passed our fire inspection today. Now the only non-self-imposed hurdle standing between us and opening for business is passing our noise abatement inspection. (If, that is, we thought it was ok to open without remodeling, which we don't.)
Insect update: they are all dead! The club is now sanitary!
We finally got a bid for how much it would cost to pour new concrete for the front wall, and it was even more insane than we expected, like, the cost of constructing a small house. My first reaction was "Does Marcellus Wallace look like a bitch?" So now we're waiting to hear bids from other contractors.
I'm finding this whole process super irritating because I'm coming to realize that people in other lines of work just have no sense of urgency at all. At every job I've ever had, doing the impossible was kind of the whole point. "Oh, everyone knows that that kind of thing takes two years? Interesting, because we need to do it in four months. Now all we have to do is figure out how." Nobody, and I mean nobody, I have dealt with on this project understands that attitude. They go "ha ha ha" and assume I'm joking.
Well, we did get one piece of surprising good news, which is that whoever it was who did the electrical wiring for the stage lights, decades ago, actually knew what they were doing. There are plenty of circuits up in the ceiling, and they terminate in sensible places.
I feel like this should be a side-bar: "Hey, Mr. Club Owner, how does stage lighting work, anyway?" Well I'm glad you asked that! For non-intelligent lights, like par-cans and spots, the light is basically a metal case, a huge energy-sucking lightbulb, a colored filter ("gel") and in some cases, a fuse. It just plugs in, sometimes with a traditional three-prong plug, or (preferably) with a twist-lock plug. The plug socket that you plug it in to doesn't connect directly to power, but instead, all of the light circuits terminate at some central location (in our case, under the stage) where they plug into one or more "dimmer packs." These are glorified potentiometers: electricity comes in, and a throttled wattage goes out, except instead of there being a knob to control the "volume," the dimmer packs get their instructions from a light board. The light board is a computer; you program sequences of effects into it, etc. These days, light boards talk to dimmer packs digitally.
Since these lights draw a huge amount of power, you have to actually do the math to figure out how many, and which, lights can go on each electrical circuit; it's not like at your house where you can plug in pretty much anything you own and assume that there will be more than enough juice.
Light boards generally control intelligent lights too, even though the mechanism is different: those lights don't go through the dimmer packs, but are controlled digitally from the board, since they have their own brains.
As a stress-test of our internet connection, we ran some wires from the office to the dj booth, and we've been listening to Icecast MP3 broadcasts over the club's sound system. I'm running a server on one of my home machines that is playing random selections from my personal CD collection, and one of the machines at the club is tuned in to that, and is feeding the sound system.
This is a cool hack, but the sound quality is noticeably crummy for all but the highest bitrate streams, and for those, the network weather causes pretty regular stuttering and drop-out, so it seems that we don't yet live in a world where it would be practical for (for example) someone to dj remotely. (Our net connection is primarily intended for uplink: when we do webcasts, we'll have a single stream going from the club to a server that is colocated at our ISP, where much more bandwidth is available; that server will then re-broadcast to the outside world.)
Aaaah, city living. A stack of newspapers is regularly dropped off in front of the door to the club, and Barry picked them up with both arms to move them out of the way.
They were soaking wet.
It has not rained in weeks.
The jury is still out on whether we're going to pour new concrete for the front wall; that's apparently a much bigger job than I thought. You were probably thinking, "build a form; pour in concrete; done," right? Yeah, me too. Apparently "pouring" doesn't really describe the process. Since we're in earthquake country, the building codes say we have to have a closely-spaced grid of rebar inside the wall, deeply anchored into the existing pillars. So first that has to be drilled in, then the concrete is poured/slathered on around it, a foot at a time.
Apparently building a cinder-block wall isn't really an option, because that also has to have rebar inside of it, and if you're not building a wall from scratch, but rather, trying to fill in a hole in an existing wall, getting the bricks threaded over the rebar is a huge hassle, so that would end up being even more expensive.
Also, getting the permits for this kind of thing is also very time-consuming, due to the fact that it means putting a lot more weight on the wall, so they want to see proof that the building can handle it... So now we're exploring other soundproofing materials, to hopefully find something that is sufficient, and yet won't cost a fortune and take a month to install. It's hard to find numbers, like, what dB reduction does one get from N inches of concrete? From four layers of sheet-rock plus foam insulation?
1015 Folsom just built a new wall: they basically built a second concrete bunker that encloses the existing building. It looks pretty impressive, but they can do stuff like that because they're open and have a huge revenue stream, whereas I'm trying to figure out how to get my club open at all without going broke first. I really don't want to have to go get a real job, that would, like, suck.
A few friendly readers of this page sent me pointers to the materials that they had experience with in soundproofing shooting ranges and recording studios: www.silentsource.com and www.soundproofing.org. See, I'm not just talking to myself here! I love the net.