26-May-2020 (Tue)
Wherein the bars are dropping like flies, and there are new ABC shenanigans.

Look at our beautiful cocktail jars! Why don't you stop by and take some home with you? I added the full menu of all the cocktails our Liquor Scienticians have been developing for you.

Remember, if you pick them up instead of having them delivered, the delivery services don't take their 15% pound of flesh from us. Call ahead! 415-626-0166.

You've probably heard that The Stud is closing, at least for the foreseeable future. Here's a good article about it, with a nice history of the place:

Stud Stories: Remembering a Bar That Epitomized Everything Great and Weird About San Francisco

The place has been living on borrowed time -- albeit very creatively -- for about four years. Things have been uncertain ever since the previous owner sold the business when facing a steep rent hike, and it became clear that the offspring of the now deceased original property owners intended to develop the site or sell it for development and profit handsomely. (In recent years, the gargantuan L7 apartment complex rose next door to Stud's tiny edifice on what had for decades been a surface parking lot for Muni and Golden Gate Transit buses, and the image began to feel like one of those cinematic fast-forwards about gentrification.) The Stud Collective, recognizing this, began hunting for a new space in 2016 even as they got one and then another two-year lease from the property owners.

Given that their current location wasn't going to last much longer, it makes total sense for them to stop paying rent on an empty building now, and save that for their new location instead. Still, it's sad.

In these last few weeks DNA Lounge has had it slightly easier than many of our fellow bars and clubs because we are also a restaurant. Venues that are 21+ have, so far, been prohibited from doing any business at all. Though we're allowed to deliver liquor and our delicious cocktails, that's only in conjunction with a food order.

Well, this week, bars are allowed to start delivering cocktails, but ABC is demanding that they sell food, too. Which is a pain in the ass if you are not a restaurant, and do not have a kitchen.

San Francisco Bar Owners Struggle With Reopening Requirements

The announcement allowing bars, wineries, distilleries and breweries that do not have their own kitchens but that partner with meal providers to sell alcoholic beverages to-go was made Friday by the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

Dalton owns Future Bars, which has about a dozen locations in San Francisco. He says pivoting his business model to suddenly partner with restaurants or food vendors is an undue burden and logistically challenging. He wants the city and ABC to go a step further, and relax the meal requirement.

Though we were all shocked, and pleased, to learn that ABC was going to allow us to sell to-go alcohol, never forget that this agency is no friend of the industry that they purport to be regulating. Their idea of "regulate" almost always most closely resembles "destroy".

For example!

ABC is currently ramping up a set of sting operations where under-age people try to order alcohol. And simultaneously, they are in the process of changing their rules so that if you fall victim to that sting, you lose your license with essentially no hope of appeal:

Booze Rules: The Latest on the ABC Emergency Rules

The new "rules" do away with most due process protections for licensees including discovery of relevant evidence, responsive pleadings, time to prepare for hearing and mandatory live administrative hearings before license suspension or revocation being imposed. [...] The new rules do not go away if the COVID 19 "emergency" goes away. From now on an "emergency" is anything the ABC says is an "emergency." [...]

Now the ABC wants to Include the Use of Minor Police Employed Decoys as "Emergencies" justifying the suspension of due process protections.

On May 20, the ABC upped the ante on the new emergency regulations by including a new category of offense in the emergency rules -- sale to a minor employed by the police as a decoy to accept alcoholic beverages from a delivery driver acting as the "agent" of the selling licensee. [...]

Minor decoy penalties are draconian. The first violation is a 15-day license suspension, the second in a 36-month period is a mandatory 25-day license suspension and the third in a 36 -month period is license revocation.

Given these violations are also criminal violations for the delivery person (which could be any of the delivery services, including FedEx and UPS) this may bring the current work around of delivering alcohol to a screeching halt. I cannot imagine the major delivery services agreeing to carry alcohol when doing so exposes them and their drivers to criminal liability for not carding someone wearing a mask because of COVID 19 concerns and requiring the driver to leave the package on the front porch. [...]

The ABC is using the COVID 19 crisis as an excuse to implement a system of permanent "emergency" orders that would abrogate licensee rights to defend themselves and their licenses in administrative proceedings.

ABC's goal is not "regulation" of the alcohol industry. It is the destruction of it. The agency grew out of Prohibition, and they have not changed.

Taking advantage of a pandemic to push through onerous new "emergency" powers is as repulsive as it is unsurprising. Into every plague come the plague rats.

15 Responses:

  1. stuartd says:

    When I was in SF many years ago, I didn’t know about the DNA Lounge but had an exceptionally good night at Open Mic night at the Black Magic Voodoo Lounge. Keep up the good fight please.

  2. Bryan Manternach says:

    How the heck do we, as a community, get the draconian ABC changed to something that fits THIS CENTURY? Prohibition was so long ago that the ABC just seems like an unwanted anachronism. Yes, rules need to be in place and enforced, but the ABC has always seemed like they are just trying to look busy to justify their budget, and keep their jobs by inventing shit to enforce. Corruption?

    • Thomas Lord says:

      A good skill to develop is a capacity to approach absolute strangers, in unfamiliar environments, blankly and openly - the ethos of the traveler-guest since time immemorial - because (a) it gives you a relative freedom of motion and travel that most people lack and (b) you learn a lot about, let's call it, the facts on the ground.

      ABC is not exactly anachronistic. The 21st century might even be granting them a fresh breath of horrible relevance. There are large swaths of America wherein heavy drinking, like porn shop blowjobs and selling off your Percocets, is best kept hidden, furtive, and officially disapproved. It's hotter that way.

      That ABC approaches a less tiresome, more cosmolitan nightclub culture coming on like some late night UHF preacher trying to keep his indecent exposure bust with that high school football player out of the paper may seem odd from our perspective, but to a lot of these fuckers it makes perfect sense.

  3. Tinus says:

    If an officer takes an action that makes you commit a crime you would not otherwise have committed, that’s entrapment.

    If people need to send their cocktails with food can’t they just offer a lollipop with a complimentary cocktail?

  4. thielges says:

    So if a second party delivery driver fails to card, both the delivery company and bar are penalized? That’s excessive. There should just be one penalty and it should stick to the delivery firm extracting their commission for the service and who made the carding mistake, not the originating bar who did no wrong.

    Speaking of delivery firms, I’ve noticed at least one other restaurant that has caught on to how the delivery fee eats into their margin. They’re now prominently stating that you can save 30% by picking up your togo order, meaning they’ve increased prices on the delivery menu to offset the fee.

    • jwz says:

      All of the delivery services have terms of service that say you have to charge the same price. Just like how (until a couple years ago) the credit card companies' terms of service used to force retailers to charge the same for cash and credit, making the retailer cover the extra cost for credit card processing.

      • thielges says:

        Well I'm glad I didn't name the establishment and out them to their delivery overlords then. They announced the 30% pick-up discount via their email list so perhaps it won't attract the wrong kind of attention.

        Thank you for pointing out the huge cut that delivery takes JWZ. I was never a big fan of delivery and now go exclusively pick-up.

      • Scott says:

        Vredit card companies (and be clear, when you say that it means Visa, MasterCard and Amex, NOT the bank whose name bbn is on your card) didnt require you charge the same. You were just not allowed to charge a penalty on the credit card sales. That's why gas stations have always been able to get away with saying you get a "discount" for cash. It was also against the rules to demand a minimum charge to use a credit card, but restaurants and retailers did it anyway, figuring they'd never get caught. Typically merchants pay between .8% up to a max of a little under 3% for credit. But they do get a ton of back office and other services, if they take advantage of them, from their issuer/acquierer.

  5. Jim says:

    An unlikely ally here might be Safeway, who face the same risk in their delivery, but their pockets are much deeper and firm, deep, wide customer demand for blue law-free ordering is not going anywhere.

  6. John O'Halloran says:

    We've done 2 alcohol delivers in our area. In both case the delivery service required the driver to use a drivers license scanning app to confirm I was of age to accept the drinks.

    Still the ABC, needs to renamed the Anti-Fun Brigade.

  7. Kaleberg says:

    All things old are new again. The 1896 Raines Law required NYC bars to serve food as a condition for selling alcohol. Supposedly, bars started offering a brick between two slices of bread as a Raines Law sandwich. There were jokes about customers who actually tried to order one or eat one. Wow, we've come a long way.

    • Elusis says:

      Portland still does this, basically. Go into a bar, you'll spot a sad little mini-fridge with some "sandwiches" no sane person would touch, for a price. Some places use this as an incentive to offer something actually delicious and filling to back-stop one's booze, but many are just phoning in in, you can tell.

  8. kwk says:

    My favorite coronavirus innovations is that one of my favorite restaurants is selling draft beer to go, in a large styrofoam cup, with a lime and a straw. I hope this is one of the changes that persists.

    • Jim says:

      Please ask them to stop. Alcohol dissolves styrofoam into styrene, which causes depression and endocrine problems even in very small amounts.

  9. K J says:

    So I assume in the sense of fairness they are also requiring grocery stores, liqour stores, and convenience stores to sell you food with your alcohol? Wait, what am I saying. Of course that isn't happening.