7-Feb-2009 (Sat) Wherein brains.

Photos are up of the Zombie Prom! Brains, brains brains brains. Brains brains Brains brain brains.

Brain's brains brains brains brains brains brains. Brains, brain's brains brains brains brains brains brains brains brains brains brains brains brains. Brains brains, "Brains brain's brains brains brains brains?" Brains brains, "Brains brains brain brains brains brains brains brains brain brains brains brains brains brains." Brains brains brains brains, "Brains brains brains Brains brains brains brains brains brains brains brains?"

"Brains brains." Brains brains brains, "Brains brain's brains! Brains brain brain brains brains!" Brains brains, brains brains. Brains brains brains brains brains.

Send more paramedics.

8-Feb-2009 (Sun) Wherein more brains.

Oh hey, more zombie photos have arrived! They're at the bottom. I also forgot to mention the Seabound + De/Vision photos from a few weeks ago, and I recently added some older galleries that I scraped out of the fetid bowels of myspace of the last few months' worth of Super Egos and Death Guilds.

Here's what I've been dealing with for the last few months.

The short version:

The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control is trying to put DNA Lounge permanently out of business. They are accusing us of "running a disorderly house injurious to the public welfare and morals", and are trying to permanently revoke our liquor license.

We're fighting this, obviously. The appeals process will be lengthy, and even if everything goes wrong, we're not going anywhere any time soon. We are open, and will remain open for the foreseeable future.

The longer version:

DNA Lounge has been here since 1985. I purchased the club in April 1999, and we re-opened for business in July 2001, with a Type 48 (bar, 21+) liquor license. Over these many years, the club has operated as a combination of a dance club and a live music venue.

In April 2007, we applied to the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) to exchange or convert our Type 48 liquor license (bar / 21+) to a Type 47 (bona fide eating place / all ages). We did this to focus more on live music, and being an under-21 venue is critical to that. Despite the support of both SFPD and our neighbors, ABC rejected our application. We appealed.

As a direct result of our having filed an appeal, ABC began sending undercover agents into the club during our gay and lesbian promotions looking for dirt. As far as we can tell, undercover agents were present at Escandalo and Cream events during March, April and May of 2008.

On July 9, 2008, we had a hearing to contest ABC's denial of our license conversion, and we reached a settlement with ABC. On Aug 14, 2008, our petition to convert our Type 48 liquor license to a Type 47 was finally granted.

However, on Aug 6, 2008, we received a citation from ABC for "lewdness", "discrimination", and "running a disorderly house injurious to the public welfare and morals"!

The facts are these:

  • All of the accusations relate to two particular monthly events that used to happen here: "Cream", a lesbian dance party; and "Escandalo", a gay male Latin dance party. That's two events out of the approximately eighteen nights a month that we are open. (We canceled both of those events after we learned ABC was taking action against us.)

  • This is the first citation of any kind that DNA Lounge has ever received from ABC since we opened for business in 2001.

  • ABC is asking for outright revocation of our liquor license. This would put us out of business permanently. This would be the end of DNA Lounge permanently because it would not even allow the option of someone else buying the business.

  • The "discrimination" charge is because the Cream promoters were charging different cover charges to men and women. We weren't aware they were doing this, and made them stop as soon as we found out, but ABC is citing us for it anyway. (Typically the outside promoter runs the cashier window, not DNA Lounge staff, which is how it took us a while to notice. The discriminatory pricing wasn't advertised on their flyers or on the web site.)

  • The "lewdness" charges are because there were incidents of dancers at Escandalo pulling their shorts down and exposing their buttocks, and sometimes their pubic hair or genitals. Butt-slapping: that's also not allowed. Standing behind someone, even while clothed, and doing "several" pelvic thrusts: that's not mere dirty dancing, that's a "simulated sex act". Not allowed.

  • Also, at one Cream event, they held a wet t-shirt contest, in which a few female customers exposed their boobs to a room full of lesbians.

Here's an example of the kind of accusations that are in ABC's documents:

Later, S-6 and S-7 left the stage and S-1 (now wearing fluorescent green underwear), S-8, and the night's host "Lola" came on stage. S-1 and S-8 both pulled down the back of their underwear fully exposing their buttocks multiple times in violation of Rule 143.2(1). Also while on stage I observed S-8 get behind "Lola" and simulate having sexual intercourse by grabbing "Lola's" shoulders and thrusting his pelvis against "Lola's" buttocks several times in violation of Rule 143.3(1)(a). During this time S-1 was in front of "Lola" facing him/her and "Lola" was grabbing his bare buttocks in violation of 143.2(3) and 143.3(1)(b).

So that's the sort of attitude we're up against.

We have always told our outside promoters that nudity is not allowed. Our policy has always been that when our staff sees nudity, they tell the person in question to cover up, and if it happens again, that person is kicked out. It's not like these guys were running around naked. According to ABC's testimony, the exposures lasted 2-3 seconds, or "sometimes 20 seconds". So in a room full of people, the undercover ABC agents saw some brief flashing that our security happened not to notice.

ABC claims that we are responsible for these incidents, even though they didn't involve our employees, and we tried to prevent them.

In years past, ABC's standard penalty for these sorts of violations at actual strip clubs had been as little as a small fine plus one year of probation. This time, ABC is asking for the maximum allowable penalty: outright revocation of our alcohol license.

Because this is our first citation in eight years of operation, and because we clearly took steps to avoid and correct the offenses, we see only two possible reasons for ABC taking such a hard line. We believe both are probably true:

  • First, this punishment is retaliatory for us having had the audacity to appeal ABC's denial of our exchange of the "bar" license for a "restaurant" license (and win);

  • Second, the severity of this penalty is because the conduct involved gay and lesbian activity and a gay and lesbian crowd. There are many reported ABC cases involving heterosexual strip clubs where the penalty imposed was a fine and probation.

We will be fighting this for some time. It's going to cost me a lot of money.

Is this the kind of thing you think the State of California should be spending your tax dollars on during a recession and budget crisis?

A lot of you have been asking me how you can help us out with our ABC problems. Thank you very much for that! I didn't include that detail in my last update because, frankly, we're still trying to figure that out. However, for now, probably the best thing you can do is to write to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, specifically Ross Mirkarimi and Bevan Dufty, and let them know what you think about how ABC has been treating DNA Lounge.

There will probably be other ways you can help in the future, so stay tuned...

For those of you just tuning in because of the recent drama, I should let you know that this here blog is usually about less significant things than our catastrophic legal battles. Mostly I write about the daily goings-on here at the club. This is one of those trivial entries.

So. In less controversial news, we got a new front door camera, since the old one died. The new one is kinda weird, because it's both color and infrared. Most other infrared imagery I've seen has been monochrome. These images look pretty freaky because the street comes out in normal color, but the people come out with that ghostly infrared look.

Jared, the mad mastermind behind our absinthe bar, was beaming the other day because now he has five different flavors of bitters. That's just how he rolls. The other day he was making some crazy drink involving beets and fresh ginger. Beets! But when one of my friends tried to get one, he had already run out of beets. "And to that you replied...?" I asked. I was met with a stare. "What you should have said was, bring that beet back!"

Thank you. I'm here all week.

Incidentally, we're still looking for a talent buyer / in-house booker. We really want to find someone who is currently working as the talent buyer for some other venue (not necessarily in San Francisco, if they want to move). If you know anyone, please send them our way!

Won't you please donate to our legal defense fund?

23-Feb-2009 (Mon) Wherein we network socially.

We've gotten quite a few donations so far! Thank you all so very much! You are beautiful, intelligent, and you smell great. Every last one of you. For serious.

I just created a "Save DNA Lounge" Facebook group, because I understand that's what the kids today are in to. Please join it. Bring a friend and share a miracle.

(Not to be confused with our other Facebook page.)

Thank you all so much for the generous contributions! Your help over the past few days in offsetting our legal bills means that it's going to be somewhat easier to pay our staff this month. We're not done yet, though, so please donate!

The "Save DNA Lounge" Facebook group has around 1,400 members already, which is great. Invite your friends to join! These numbers send a message.

We've gotten some publicity this week on the blogs and newspapers:

You may notice that a number of those web sites have a comments section, and that many of the commenters are saying ill-informed things like, "Well, the law's the law, and they should have known better!" Perhaps you would like to (politely) share your views of the situation on those threads.

Also, a bit of clarification, for those who might not have correctly understood my original blog post about this:

  • Though it is clear to me that ABC's investigation of our gay events is retaliation for our successful conversion to an all-ages venue, the events they are citing us for were 21+ events.

  • The majority of the offenses they are charging us with were dancers flashing for just a few seconds. We're talking about some guy mooning the audience for three seconds. That's the level of these offenses.

  • The people doing these things were not DNA employees.

  • The ABC considers "several" fully clothed pelvic thrusts, as a part of a comedy routine, to be an illegal "simulated sex act". There's hardly a music video in the world that would pass their standard.

I mention these points again because I get the impression that some people don't understand the depth of the absurdity of these charges.

I didn't realize this until 30 seconds ago, but it turns out that one of the wrestlers at this month's Fog City Wrestling -- starting right now at DNA Lounge -- is Todd Bridges, who played Willis on "Diff'rent Strokes".

How about that.

Also, the Friends of the Anemic Twig have struck again, and we have been a victim of yet another early morning drive-by tree-planting.

At least this time they seem to have reinforced it better. Maybe it will survive the first delivery truck that backs into it, unlike the last one.

Also, Hubba Hubba Revue photos are up now.