When we first applied for our license change to allow all ages events, the ABC investigator who was assigned to our case was a fellow named Ross Glen. He was our primary point of contact with ABC throughout our various appeals until he retired several months ago.
Here's a letter he recently wrote to the SF Bay Guardian, which they published today.
Even ABC's own investigators think ABC's actions are absurd.
A longer version of Glen's message to the Guardian follows:
My name is Ross Glen and I am a retired Licensing Representative for the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. I handled the investigation of DNA's application to convert their type-48 license to a type-47. I have also handled the applications of several of the other clubs between Harrison and Folsom on 11th Street.
I believe that ABC's proposed revocation of the DNA's license is excessive and out of proportion to the offense committed. During the course of my investigation, I found the DNA to be appreciated by their immediate neighbors, diligent in their efforts to adhere to the applicable laws and sincere in their desire to address the concerns of the Department with regard to the various circumstances that surround the operation of an all-ages music venue. My review of the historical record of the licensee revealed no preceding violations. In addition, the San Francisco Police Department withdrew their objections to the exchange of the 48 for the 47 after discussing the matter with DNA ownership. City and county zoning regulations allow for the operation of a type-47 at DNA's location. The one verified protest we had against the DNA's request, moved out of the area and did not choose to appear at the administrative hearing. In short, in the final analysis the Department stood alone in its belief that the request to exchange license types was not in the interest of public welfare and morals.
The crux of the matter is the Department's requirement that at least fifty percent of the club's revenues come from the sale of food. It became clear to me after my investigation, that an all-ages music venues business model could not support the fifty percent food requirements. During a break in the administrative hearing, the Department and DNA's ownership (Mr. Zawinski and Mr. Synoground) came to an agreement to allow the exchange to take place with a condition that forty percent of their receipts come from the sale of meals. When we all left the hearing that day, I think we had a certain sense of accomplishment that we had reached, at least an interim solution that would allow the DNA to continue as one of this country's preeminent music venues. On a personal level, I absolutely would vouch for Mr. Synoground's and Mr. Zawinski's character.
I am sure you know that his all goes much deeper than just the DNA Lounge. I also did the investigation for Bottom of the Hill's request to have the fifty percent condition taken off their license. Despite having finished the investigation and submitting the report, I have found that the Department reassigned the case after I retired and the investigation began anew. In tha instance also, I found absolutely nobody in the neighborhood that opposed the condition modification. In fact, I received tens of personal letters of support from San Franciscans that were the Bottom of the Hills neighbors.
Please know that I am not a disgruntled former employee. I loved my time at ABC and feel that they generally do a good job with very limited resources. I do part company with the Department however when it comes to their policies and actions relating to many of the music venues.