4-Nov-2009 (Wed)
Wherein it's spoooooky.

Photos are up of our ninth annual All Hallow's Eve party! It was fantastic, Halloween parties being one of the things we're actually good at around here. My photos aren't great because I was wearing a costume that required sunglasses, but one must suffer for fashion. Or something.

Pictured here: the winner of the costume contest, Giant Cardboard Box Robot Guy.

(The following night was the Booootie Halloween party, but I don't have any photos of that, because I didn't shoot it. You may have noticed that I almost never have Bootie photos in the gallery. I see people at Bootie with cameras all the time, but nobody ever sends me their photos.)

10-Nov-2009 (Tue)
Wherein the axe falls.

Well, I have some news. I wouldn't call it good news, but I would certainly call it better news than what the news could have been.

We have finally negotiated a settlement with ABC: we will be closed from Monday, January 4th through Thursday, January 28th, and that will basically be the end of it.

As you no doubt recall, they had been trying to revoke our liquor license and put us permanently out of business. So, this is better than that.

There are also a few years of "probation" on top of the suspension (basically meaning that if they hit us with a second accusation of being a "disorderly house injurious to the public welfare and morals", that would be really bad), but this 25 day suspension should be the end of this battle.

As the saying goes, "Our long national nightmare of peace and prosperity is finally over."

We could not have gotten a deal even this good without your help! Your letters and hard work of keeping the pressure on our elected officials were instrumental in facilitating this negotiation. So thank you all so very, very much for backing us in this fight!

Of course, it still cost us a fortune.

This all started in April 2007 when we kicked the hornets' nest by attempting to convert DNA Lounge to an all ages venue; that led directly to the retaliatory "lewdness" charge in August 2008. As I detailed on the Legal Defense Fund page, this fight has cost us well over a hundred twenty thousand dollars so far. That doesn't count all the money we've spent on lawyers and consultants since last February, nor does it count the truly staggering amount of lost revenue we're looking at by losing almost the entire month of January.

I think we've gotten around $25k in donations to our legal defense fund so far, which has been a fantastic and generous outpouring of support! But, obviously, we could still use some help... So if you can, please donate! It's going to be a cold, hungry January this year...

Some new photo galleries are up of last Sunday's Possessed, Impaled, and Sadistic Intent show; Thursday's Minusbaby, Trash80, Starpause and Crashfaster show; and yesterday's Deviant Nation party with Kaura, Everything Goes Cold and Deconbrio.

Apparently SFPD have decided that if you are attending an unlicensed party that they shut down, they get to keep your laptop for three months:

S.F. cops may have gone too far in seizing DJ gear at underground parties

Over the past six months, music fans who have been spinning records -- or even just attending friends' events -- claim their laptops, soundboards, and mixers have been taken by the cops in police raids. The busted gatherings include an illegal dance party, an artist fundraiser, and a private Halloween bash. While it's unclear whether the lack of official permits was enough reason to close down all these parties, the bigger question is why the police are seizing and holding private property that DJs and attendees use eir art and living.

[...] "I tried to explain that I wasn't even playing at the party," he says. Nonetheless, his computer was seized by a cop who identified himself as part of a "task force," who told him that he shouldn't expect to get his laptop back "for at least three months." Other DJs at the party claim to have received similar warnings -- as well as threats of jail time, if they were seen DJing at warehouses again -- from officers who said they were part of a task force. (The SFPD claims it does not have a specific task force looking at underground parties, but it does routine checks in the SOMA area, sometimes with other agencies such as the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, for permit and other violations.)

EFF Civil liberties director Jennifer Granick says she's concerned about the recent laptop grabs because they've apparently been done without arrests being made. She explains that police can seize the property of someone who is being arrested, and if, say, alcohol is being sold illegally or people have weapons in their possession, cops can confiscate those items. "You can't just go to a party and say, 'You can't have a party because it's after hours and you don't have a permit,' and just take people's property," she adds. [...]

Individual victims have their theories -- mostly concerning overzealous officers with anti-speakeasy agendas -- about why DJs and others are losing their property at underground parties.

Why has my city gone crazy? Why?

Meanwhile, BrokeNCYDE photos are up. It was everything I had hoped for, and was probably the coolest high school dance ever! Seriously, we had exactly four people over 21. Two of those were parents, and one of them looked a lot like "McLovin".

The first band had a very screamy song about Hello Kitty.

They sure brought a lot of lights.

Photos and videos are now up of the Miss Hubba Hubba Pageant (wherein they wisely let the Wookie win) and of Villainy, with an appearance by the 501st Legion. This was the first time I had ever seen an Ewok gogo dancer, but perhaps I don't get out enough. I was surprised at how many people dressed up! It was very entertaining.

Also, tonight we've got a metal band called Vader playing. There seems to be something Imperial in the air of late.

Don't forget to come out to Meat tomorrow to continue gorging yourself on BBQ after your Thanksgiving dinner!

Here's a longer article about SFPD's apparent new policy of seizing any laptops they can find -- even ones that are turned off, and tucked away inside a backpack -- any time they bust up a private house party (mentioned previously):

Police seize DJs' laptops: New police chief apparently condones policy that critics call illegal and punitive

While SFPD officials deny the laptop seizures is a new policy, they admit it has been condoned by Police Chief George Gascón, who took over in August and last month told the Guardian's editorial board he wants to make the SFPD more transparent and accountable to the public.

"The police chief is aware that officers are being proactive in gathering evidence," Sgt. Lyn Tomioka told the Guardian when asked about a string of laptop seizures by undercover cops over the last 10 months, most of them in cases in which the DJs weren't even charged with a crime. [...]

Tomioka said it's a judgment call for officers to seize laptops as evidence of an illegal party, but San Francisco Entertainment Commission member Terrance Alan said the tactic is a punitive measure that proves nothing: "Taking laptops [is] not necessary to prove the underlying crime, and in many cases damages people's ability to earn a living."

Ladies and Gentlemen, San Francisco's Finest, Officer Larry Bertrand, SFPD badge #414:

But Miller said it didn't stop there. One of the undercover officers approached her and asked if she had a laptop. She said she did. "I was a little confused at this point because I didn't know what my laptop had to do with anything. I was playing CDs." She said she pulled her computer out from underneath a table and unzipped it from a case. The officer then "grabbed it from me."

The undercover police officer -- later identified by witnesses and the evidence receipt as Larry Bertrand -- instructed Miller to follow him down to the street to get a property receipt for her laptop.

At this point there were uniformed officers on the scene as well. Miller started to cry. "I begged him. I said, 'This is my livelihood. You're taking my laptop. This is my livelihood. I hope you realize that.' He said, 'This is how you're going to learn then, I guess.'"

Miller said Bertrand (who did not return Guardian calls for comment) then told her he was "going to take it upon himself to shut down every illegal party in San Francisco."

She said he then opened the trunk of his car, revealing several other laptops. A person at the party pointed out that one of the laptops belonged to a friend of his, and asked if he could get the property receipt for the laptop. Miller said Bertrand turned to the inquiring person and said, "You will never see this laptop again."

She continued: "He then looked at me and said, 'I'm going to make sure your paperwork gets so tied up that maybe you won't see this laptop until December, January, February, who knows when.' I felt so violated."

Jennifer Granick, a civil liberties lawyer with EFF, said most people haven't heard about this because few of these DJs, if any, ever get convicted of a crime. [...] Granick argued it is illegal for police to seize property without issuing citations or arrests. She also said there are serious privacy issues at stake. "If we were to find out that the police were doing something else with the laptops, like searching through them or copying the data, we would definitely go to court," she said.

Jennifer Granick of EFF is representing some of the victims in a hearing on Tue, Dec 1 at 9AM in Department 18 at 850 Bryant. She says:

"The most probable outcome is that the Court orders our clients' laptops returned and that's that. However, I've filed papers asking for an accounting and injuction, in hopes of having evidentiary hearing where I will put on witnesses to try to show the Court and the public that there is a bigger problem here that merely returning our stuff won't fix. [...] If you'd like to show up and watch the hearing, it would be great to have you."

It's not even clear that any these parties where laptops were being stolen were illegal. They were invitation-only parties in people's homes.

Many of you are having people over today for Thanksgiving. Did you get a permit?