The webcast archives were down for a few days. You know what's a phone call that you don't want to receive? "Hey, remember your server? I finally got around to trying to see why it's been randomly rebooting twice a week for three months, and the power supply blew up. And uh. Took your drive with it." And then that's when you realize you haven't done a backup in a month. Good times.
That's not why the webcast of Saturday's Bassnectar show isn't there, though: that's because they refused to be webcast. Usually we just don't book events with people who are stupid about such things, but hey, we're fuckin' broke, and I just don't care any more. The webcast is a constant source of grief to me on so many levels, I just don't have the fight in me any more. If you don't want the free promotion, fine. If you don't want us to expose your music to more people than are already in your little clique, fine. I'll take your money anyway.
On the few occasions in the past where we've followed the money and subverted our principles for some prima donna DJ, we've just switched the webcast to whoever is DJing from the upstairs lounge that night, so that we would at least have a webcast that had something to do with the event in question, even if it was only their B-listers. But this time, apparently all they had going on in the lounge was... a puppet show.
Here's some interesting news from Washington D.C.: Nightclub Shooting May Beget Legislation. In January, there was a shooting at a D.C. nightclub. A patron pulled a gun on a security guard, and in the scuffle, a bystander was killed. This bystander was 17 years old. So a city council member has proposed legislation to solve this problem by banning minors from bars. Because apparently it's ok to be shot for no reason if you're over 21.
But wait, banning minors from bars?
That's right: in Washington D.C., bars are legally all ages. They can't serve alcohol to anyone under 21, of course, and most choose to operate as 21-and-over venues, but there's no law against minors entering any venue that sells alcohol.
This goes a long way to explain how the hardcore punk movement was able to take root in D.C.; the kids actually had venues they could go to.
This is something of a culture shock to those of us in California, since here, not only are minors not allowed in bars, but there is no such thing as an all-ages (or even 18+) concert venue that also serves alcohol. All that the law provides for here are bars (which do not admit anyone under 21+) and restaurants (which admit anyone.) That means that every time you've ever seen a band in an 18+ or all-ages venue in California, that venue has technically been a restaurant. The Warfield is a restaurant. The Cow Palace is a restaurant.
(Every time I tell someone this, they say, "Wait, The Warfield sells food?" Yes.)
More on this nonsense at DCist: Banned in D.C.: Artists Respond.
If you're not familiar with Fugazi, they're well known for achieving great success while all the while refusing to play at any venue that was not all ages, or that charges more than $7 admission. They also refuse to advertise in or be interviewed by any magazine or newspaper that sells ad space to cigarette or alcohol companies.
(Though I use and endorse alcohol, I'm totally with them on the tobacco thing; this would be a non-smoking club even if smoking in clubs was legal. We have never taken money or sponsorships from cigarette companies, even though there's a lot of free money to be had from them. Because, seriously, screw those guys.)
I'm a huge admirer of Fugazi, and of how they've been able to successfully make this stand for twenty years now.
MacKaye says, "It's obvious to me that adult shows are a form of discrimination. We're not interested in playing to only one section of the human race. Everybody should be allowed to come and see us no matter how old they are, what race they are or what gender they are."
In local news, Hole In The Wall, over on 8th at Folsom, is trying to move, since their current building is falling apart. They are buying a new space nearby on Folsom, but now (wait for it...) the neighbors are complaining. I love how they characterize it using phrases like "don't want another bar in SOMA" and "this new neighborhood they decided to move into", when the bar has already been in that neighborhood for twelve years.
I made some changes to this web site; more use of CSS, less use of tables, and I reduced the default font size. Let me know if anything looks weird.
Also, the calendar now has longer text descriptions of some events, instead of just the genre and performer names. The plan is for all of the events to have this, eventually. This makes the page even wider, which bugs me, but I've yet to come up with a good-looking solution to that problem.
As many of you who have been following along from the beginning are aware, the reason I bought this nightclub was to support live music. By 1998, many nightclubs had closed, and there were very few small-to-medium-sized venues left that were pleasant places to see a live show.
DNA Lounge had been lying fallow for years, so I began the process of buying and revitalizing the place. This took, all told, almost exactly four years from when I made my first offer to when we opened for business in July 2001. That included six months of political battles to allow the transfer of the operating permits, followed by a year-and-a-half-long multi-million-dollar remodeling project. (We only had to do that much remodeling because of new requirements that were being imposed on us during the transfer of permits. Had DNA's previous owners simply continued operating, they wouldn't have had to spend a dime, but because I bought the existing business, the city forced me to spend a fortune before I could even open the doors.)
Fast forward six years, and we're still here... but remember that original goal, the live music? Well, we don't really do very much live music. It averages out to around three live shows a month, and that's counting the "house bands" at Bootie at Bohemian Carnival.
The reason we do so little live music is that we're a 21-and-over venue, and, it turns out, it's really, really hard to book bands in such a venue. Successful live music venues are 18+ or all-ages. That's because the unforunate demographic fact is that the people who attend live shows are in the 18-to-25 age bracket, heavily skewed toward the lower end. For many bands, performing at an 18+ venue instead of a 21+ venue will double or triple the attendance. And their booking agents know that, so a lot of agents won't even talk to 21+ venues.
And that's why, despite the fact that our finances are tight, we spent another small fortune this year to build a kitchen. (As I explained earlier, all under-21 concert venues in California are technically restaurants, so food is a prerequisite.)
With construction on our kitchen complete, last month we finally pulled the trigger on our plan to go all ages: we went down to the ABC and filled out the paperwork to convert our Type 48 ("bar") liquor license into a Type 47 ("restaurant") liquor license.
(It turns out that there are 340 residences within 500 feet of our building. I know this because we spent an evening stuffing envelopes and sticking labels to mail them all notification of our permit application: a letter saying, basically, "KICK ME".)
A few days later, we had a meeting with the SFPD officers responsible for permitting to discuss our license application. We showed them our kitchen, and they said, basically, "What's this tiny thing! This is a joke! This doesn't look like a restaurant!" We said, "Hey, we're not trying to be Denny's, we're trying to be Slim's", and pointed out to them the obvious fact that there are a bunch of all-ages concert venues in this city (off the top of my head: Slim's, Great American Music Hall, Bottom of the Hill, Cafe du Nord, Bimbo's, Glas Kat, The Warfield, The Filmore, City Nights, and I'm sure I've forgotten a bunch) and we just want to do the exact same thing that those places do: live music, while serving meals.
This was not a pleasant meeting. Every time we tried to talk about specifics, they'd bob-and-weave from one complaint to another: they'd say, "Your kitchen is too small!" and we'd say, "No it's not, we can serve a totally reasonable volume of food from there." Then they'd respond, "But there will be under-aged kids drinking!" And we'd try to talk about our security plan and how we are going to prevent that, and then without missing a beat, they'd switch right back to, "But this doesn't look like a restaurant!"
They were basically unwilling to discuss it at all. I hoped they'd be reasonable about it, but I didn't really expect that at all. They have no incentive to say "yes" to us, so why would they? It doesn't benefit them. It would be fine with SFPD if this city had no bars or nightclubs at all; the Chamber of Commerce might have a problem with that, but it would make SFPD's job easier if everyone just stayed home.
Liquor licenses are issued by ABC, a state agency. But they always ask the local authorities for their opinion before issueing a permit, which in this case is SFPD. And, predictably, SFPD's recommendation was... not. This letter from ABC arrived a few days ago:
From: State of California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control
The purpose of this letter is to advise you of the status of your pending type-47 application. Please be advised that we have received protests regarding your business plan, the most important from the San Francisco Police Department, asking that we deny your application for a type-47 license. Normally, the SFPD Vice Unit will suggest various Conditions that they believe will mitigate any circumstances arising from the premises operation. However, in this case, they have recommended a simple denial. After discussing it at length with the SFPD officer in charge of permits, it is quite clear that they do not want any changes in your establishment that will result in allowing patrons under the age of twenty-one to enter and/or remain on the premises.
I am continuing my investigation of your application and will keep you apprised of any developments. Of course, it is very rare that we decide to contradict the San Francisco Police Department on matters such as these. At the very least, you should expect the processing of this application to take considerably longer than the three to four months normally allowed for this type of application.
Considering the aforementioned developments, it may be in your best interests to withdraw your application. This will prevent an Administrative Hearing, as well as eliminating the possibility of having a formal department denial in your file. I have included a Withdrawal form, should you decide this is in your best interests.
That says, "SFPD said 'no way', so you should give up. Here's the form to fill out to give up."
Our next step is to figure out how to cause SFPD's recommendation to ABC to be different. We're still working out the details on how exactly to do that, but apparently it's time to lawyer up. Again.
What a gigantic pain in the ass.
First things first: I'm sure you're all wondering what's going on with the under-21 thing. I'm sure of this because I've gotten a bunch of emails from people wanting to know what they can do to help, or who to write letters to... Well, we're still figuring that out. We've been getting advice from some people who know their way around situations like this, and we're working on our strategy. Our advisers are advocating a quieter, more political approach than what we did last time around. This goes against my instincts, of course, since I'm more of a frontal-assault, "let justice be done though the heavens fall" kind of guy. But we're going to give that a shot first. If and when the time comes for public outcry and letter-writing, you will certainly read it here first... Thanks for the support!
Photos are up of a few recent shows: Betty X, The Lovemakers, and The Nice Device. You probably didn't know The Lovemakers were playing here, because that was at a private party for CNet. And apparently there was a gargoyle that night: this guy with a camera on his head who webcasts his life was there. (Too bad his video clips don't play for me...)
I've also gone back and embedded some videos into some of the older photo galleries. There were more than a hundred of them, so I'm not going to list them all here; it'll be easier for you to find them by just clicking on the DNA user anyway.
And... webcasting still under assault, yadda yadda. There has been a new bill introduced in Congress that would make the license fees charged to Internet radio stations be similar to the fees charged to, e.g., satellite radio stations, instead of much, much higher: if this bill passes, the fees will be a percentage of revenues instead of a fee per song per user. Rusty from SomaFM has a good, brief explanation of the situation. Support H.R. 2060, the Internet Radio Equality Act.