This week, the Billboard Liberation Front took action against another irritating, smarmy, self-congratulatory, greed-is-good screw-the-other-guy advertisement down the street from DNA. It's been up for a few days now, in its corrected form. Way to go, guys!
The bathroom stalls are in! Well, mostly: a few of the doors aren't on yet, because some hinges and latches are still being ordered or something. But they look great! The various wall fixtures have also been installed: trash cans, and paper towel, toilet paper, and ass-gasket dispensers. ("Ass gasket" is the technical term for those round paper discs that you can put on the toilet seat so that you don't actually have to come in contact with it.)
The plumbers introduced a really funny bug: our toilets are flushing with hot water. Well, that's one way to solve the problem of cold toilet seats, but no, I don't think we'll be leaving it that way...
The front stairs, which are being fabricated now but have not yet been installed, are really the last major piece of construction remaining. After that, it's details and finishes, and then we can go on to our final building inspections.
Barry and I walked around and stared at just about every square foot of the club, and made a list of every single thing we saw that isn't' finished. Most of it is not hard ("Secure that piece of conduit. Cap that sprinkler head. Make it so that this sink doesn't come off the wall if fat people try to have sex on it.") but it's a long list.
I took a few pictures of the front wall of the club (facing out from the stage) and stitched them together into the vertical panorama on the right. (The things one resorts to when one doesn't have a fish-eye lens...) With all the various fences and railings, it looks like a cut-away view of a five story building. That was a nice surprise: when we designed it, I didn't expect that view to be as visually complex as it is.
The big news (huge, colossal) from last week: we passed our police noise abatement inspection!
Friday night, the usual suspects gathered here at the club, including the guys from JK who designed tuned our sound system, our acoustical engineer who designed our soundproofing plan, and two police officers to administer the test.
The police had a sound meter similar to Bob's, and when they took their measurements, he did too. They first stood outside the club for fifteen minutes, getting an average reading of the ambient sound level of 11th Street. Then when that was done, they came back inside and turned up the sound system to ear-bleed levels (I think it was something like 106dBA at the center of the dance floor: it was pretty uncomfortably loud, if you ask me.) Then they went outside and measured again, to see what difference that made.
After that, they went up on to the roof of the live-work loft building two doors down, at the corner of 11th and Harrison. We were pretty nervous about this, but it couldn't have gone better: there was no detectable sound from up there: they couldn't hear or measure the difference between the sound system being on or off!
So basically, we passed with flying colors. They congratulated us, and told us that they really hadn't expected us to pass, but that the concrete fortress we've built here is impressive.
They're not actually going to sign off on our permits until construction is done and the building department has signed off: they want to come back (during the day, without taking any measurements) and just walk around to see if everything is in the same configuration as before. They say that they're worried that after they're gone, we're going to knock down a wall or something.
I don't really understand this; I mean, we had the inspection, and we passed. This is as if a plumbing inspector were to come do his inspection and then tell you, "well you passed: for now. But I'm going to come back later and make sure you didn't go back in and screw up those pipes after I leave." That's just not how it works with any other city inspector: they way it works with everyone else is, they inspect what they saw, and if they later discover that you've done unlicensed work, they cite you!
But the bottom line is, we passed, which is hugely great news.
You will recall that the fact that we failed our noise abatement test in February of 2000 was the reason we went down this remodeling rathole in the first place. Our original plan was: level the dance floor; move the downstairs bar; remodel the bathrooms; open for business. We thought, "how long could that possibly take? Two months? Let's go crazy, let's call it three."
But then we didn't pass our noise abatement inspection (keeping in mind that until that very week, the club had been operating for the last twenty-three years) but since I was a new owner, they made me get new permits, which required a new noise abatement inspection.
So we had to soundproof. Which meant building a new concrete wall. Which meant bringing in a structural engineer. Which meant being closed for a long time. Which meant, "well, since we're going to be doing a lot of work, we might as well do this and this and this and that..." And here we are, over a year later, fistful after fistful of cash shoveled into the gaping maw of the construction project, and we're finally almost back to where we started: a nightclub instead of a construction site.
Our oldest refrigerator finally died. This reach-in cooler had been running behind the old downstairs bar on the day we moved in, and since then, it's been sitting on the dance floor, holding the coke and water we keep stocked for us and the construction crew. So this thing had been running 24/7 throughout the entire construction project: through jackhammering, mixing of concrete, sawing of wood, cutting of drywall, and all manner of offensive airborne particulates. Every day, we were amazed at what an indestructible workhorse the thing was. It got steadily noisier, but it just kept going. Until today.
A moment of silence for the dear departed refrigerator.
The stairs are mostly installed now: the handrails and a few other adjustments remain. The installation is taking a while, but that's because the steel guys are super meticulous about the whole thing. Which is good! I've seen them de-weld and reposition mounts because one side of a 5' step would be 1/8th inch higher than another.
One of the unexpected things about watching the steel guys work is how the solidity of metal means nothing to them. Most people think of metal as something hard and inflexible, but welders don't. Which should be obvious in hindsight, I guess. But, for example, they have these saw-horses that are made of tube steel. And I can see how that came about: they needed some saw-horses; they had some steel. It took them 30 seconds to make them. And, an example with the stairs: the legs of the stairs' landing platform have big threaded bolts for feet, to fine-tune the height of the legs for levelling. And there are these steel tube sleeves that go around the legs, that drop down and cover the bolts. So when they were moving this platform in, they had to flip it over, and they didn't want the sleeves to fall off while they did this. Now to me, that job calls for duct tape. To them: they welded the sleeves in place, then de-welded them when they needed them to move again.
Two weeks ago, it felt like we were really close to being done. When the bathroom partitions went in, that meant that the stairs were the last major piece of construction left to be done: just that one thing! Then the next day, I asked our contractor why there were so few guys working, and he said, "there's not much for them to do now." That was nonsense, so Barry and I spent four hours walking around and making a list of everything that's left.
So Steve thanked us for making that list, and got his guys working on it. Then a few days later, he said to me, "We're just about done with that list, so I'm sending the guys home early today."
I said, "So you're done then."
He said, "Well, we're getting pretty close."
"So you're not done then."
"So you're putting in a half day today why?"
Then he waved his arms and gave me some crap about "working efficiently" and "staging" and other excuses I didn't believe for a minute.
So then I re-did the list, breaking it down by trades (electricians versus plumbers versus Steve's guys, etc.), and marked off the things that had gotten done. I was able to cross off something like 10% of the items on the list, because while progress had been made on a lot of them, almost none of them had been completed. Some of them are non-critical details, but most of them, while small, are things that would cause the various inspectors to not pass us.
So now it feels like we've gone from "one thing left" to "two hundred things left." And we haven't seen Steve for a week (he's got a flu, and he's going out of town next week.) So some of his guys are here, but they get very little done when he isn't around, so it's going very slowly.
Also we've discovered that two amplifiers and the controller for the Emulator lights have gone missing. We have no idea what happened to them. Yay.
Here it is two weeks later, and tons of piddling little details have gotten done, none of which are even really interesting enough to talk about.
Beyond that stuff, the steel guys have been slugging away on the stairs, which are turning out to be a bigger job than they expected. Since the last update, they've gotten the side wall and handrail constructed. (These days, San Francisco's building code doesn't allow stairs to have just handrails, even if the part under the rail is filled in: they have to have a 42" high wall, with holes no larger than 4", plus a handrail inside that, at 36". A rail alone isn't good enough because, well, who the hell knows. That's what the rules are, as of a few years ago.)
One odd thing we didn't realize we'd need to do is level out the balcony floor at the top of the stairs. Apparently the existing balcony has a large enough slope in it that the top step ended up being a couple inches higher on one side than the other! So the guys replaced roughly an 8'x8' section of the floor, and feathered the slope into the floor, so that now it's imperceptible, instead of there being a steep and obvious angle along the top step. I guess the old steps must have been tilted right along with the floor, or something. Another of the wonders of living in earthquake country?
Our cashier/ticket booth window has glass in it now. Somehow I haven't described this before, it seems: the booth has two windows in it opening into the main entrance hallway, and the window is framed in rusted steel, which runs into a continuous shelf that spans both windows. The glass is automobile windshield glass (so it should be fairly tantrum-proof), and there's an opening at the bottom for passing money and tickets back and forth.
There are also mirrors in all the bathrooms and behind all the bars now. But I found it to be pretty hard to take a picture of a mirror, since it ends up looking like a picture of the other side of the room.
The cage for closing the balcony bar is mostly done: here's a shot of it in "open for business" mode. Those panels on the ceiling swing down, and can be locked together to secure the bar when it's not in operation. In the above picture, you can also see the rusted steel kick-plate along the base of the concrete bar face. (Ignore the blue stripe, that's just masking tape.)
Our new alarm system comes with its own infrared video camera and a 24-hour VCR watching the front door. So we shouldn't have the problem of the webcam not picking up a good picture of potential thieves in the future. The security camera is what's on the webcam today. Look, here's Barry saying good night!
So you kids better stop pissing in our doorway, because now everyone can see.