DNA Lounge

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DNA Lounge
DNA Lounge logo
DNA Lounge daytime.jpg
Address375 Eleventh Street
San Francisco, California
United States
LocationSoMa, San Francisco
Coordinates37°46′15.63″N 122°24′45.70″W / 37.7710083°N 122.4126944°W / 37.7710083; -122.4126944Coordinates: 37°46′15.63″N 122°24′45.70″W / 37.7710083°N 122.4126944°W / 37.7710083; -122.4126944
Public transitMUNI stop 13238[1]
OwnerJamie Zawinski
TypeNightclub, Restaurant, Cafe
Capacityabout 1100[2]
OpenedNovember 22, 1985 (1985-11-22)
RenovatedJuly 13, 2001 (2001-07-13)
ExpandedOctober 23, 2012 (2012-10-23)
Years active37

DNA Lounge is an all-ages nightclub and restaurant/cafe in the SoMa district of San Francisco owned by Jamie Zawinski, a former Netscape programmer and open-source software hacker.[3] The club features DJ dancing, live music, burlesque performances, and occasionally conferences, private parties, and film premieres.

DNA Lounge has seven full bars, two stages, four dance floors, and a full service pizza restaurant and cafe. Since 2001 the club has been providing continuous audio and video webcasts of all events free of charge.[3][4]


Sound check, 2009
The DNA Lounge building in 2020 (seen across Eleventh Street). DNA Pizza is at the lower left, with Above DNA on its upper floor

The club's main room has a stage at one end and a bar at the other, with a wall-to-wall dance floor in between. Benches and cocktail tables line the walls downstairs. Above this, a balcony looks down on the dance floor and stage from three sides.

Behind the stage on the second floor is a large lounge consisting of two connected rooms, with its own dance floor and sound system.

On the upper floor of the connected pizza restaurant next door is a smaller live music venue with its own stage and a pair of dance floors in two rooms. Known as "Above DNA," this space has its own entrance to the street as well as connecting doors to the main room balcony and upstairs lounge. On some nights, the main room and Above DNA operate separately, with different events in each. For larger events, all four rooms are connected together into one large venue. The entire second floor is not wheelchair accessible; there is no elevator.[secondary source needed]

For live shows, the capacity of the main room is around 800, and Above DNA is around 300.[2]


The venue first opened for business in 1983[5] as a leather bar called Chaps, owned by Chuck Slaton.

In 1985 it was purchased by Jim English and Brian Raffi who opened for business under the name DNA Lounge on November 22, 1985. The name was rumored to be an acronym for "dancing, not art".[6][7] Jim English left around 1988 to open Club Townsend, while restaurateur Jeff Mason became Raffi's new partner. The earliest regular DJs were Ted Cousens, Adam Fisher, Michael Snyder, and Brian Raffi. One of the early doormen was Doc Martin, who later became a popular house music DJ after a residency on Monday nights as a DJ (and spinning a lot at Townsend, thanks to English, as he became a star).

Some nights were genre-specific, with both live bands and DJs. Notable nights and resident DJs included DJs Blackstone (who spun hip hop and rap on Wednesday nights), DJ Pause (who spun hip hop and rap on Monday nights), DJ Damon and DJ Matt (who spun Rock on Tuesdays), and were preceded by Kelly Spencer (who played punk and new wave). Many of DNA's posters and flyers were designed by the San Francisco-based artist, Rex Ray. There were wildly psychedelic, fluorescent murals of strange and twisted monsters with stretched perspectives on the otherwise black downstairs walls and a black and white motif in the upstairs VIP lounge that was painted by celebrated late graffiti artist Keith Haring.

During the late '80s, the DNA offered a black membership card for $10 that offered free entry most nights. Employees got a gold card which allowed up to four guests at no charge, and there was a rumored 'platinum' card that was said to be a free pass to unlimited entry, guests, and drinks. In the early '90s, the club hosted many rave-themed nights with acts including Right Said Fred, the Hardkiss Brothers and Tasti Box, and afterhours events such as Lift- it was an important venue in San Francisco rave history. The DNA Lounge was also one of the few bars in San Francisco that would serve the Flaming Dr Pepper, an ignited drink.

In 1994, the club was purchased by John Schneider, his brother, comedian/actor Rob Schneider (who was not an active partner in club operations), and restaurateur Tim Dale. From 1995 until 1998, the DNA was a popular late-night destination, featuring unpublicized shows by such top pop musicians as Prince and Metallica, and weekend dance parties headlined by retro bands Grooveline and the M-80s. But, starting in 1996, John Schneider had to devote the bulk of his time running their family hotel and resort business. They left the daily operations of the club to subordinates, and it fell into disrepair.[8]

The club was purchased by Jamie Zawinski in 1999. The club was closed for extensive remodeling and soundproofing from April 1999 until it re-opened on Friday, July 13, 2001.[9]

From 2001 through 2009, the club provided several publicly accessible computer terminals (running Fedora). They were eventually removed due to maintenance difficulties, and a belief that the prevalence of internet-enabled phones made them obsolete.[10]

In 2011, Zawinski purchased the pizza restaurant next door to DNA Lounge, renaming it DNA Pizza, and announcing his plans to expand DNA Lounge into that space, combining the two businesses into a single all-ages nightclub, restaurant and cafe.[11] That merger was completed in 2012, and the expanded club debuted on October 23, 2012.[12]

When non-essential San Francisco businesses were forced to suspend operations in early 2020 due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, DNA Lounge continued hosting online-only events via its webcast. The venue announced it would be reopening for in-person events on June 19, 2021.[13] It actually reopened a day earlier, on June 18, 2021, after 465 days of being closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[14] On July 31, 2021, DNA Lounge began requiring proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 for entry,[15][16][17] and required proof of booster shots as of January 17, 2022 due to the Omicron variant.[18][19] However, both of these policies were rescinded on April 19, 2022 as the club "surrender[ed] unconditionally to the coronavirus", citing lax policies at other clubs and falling revenue.[20]

Conflict with local regulatory agencies[edit]

During the period that DNA Lounge was closed for remodeling, Zawinski spearheaded a successful grassroots effort to maintain its late-night permits,[21] facing opposition from several neighbors and the SFPD, but was unable to procure an all-ages license. In September 2008, after two and a half years of legal battles, the club's operating permits were successfully modified to allow patrons of all ages, instead of only those 21 years of age or older.[22]

The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) launched an investigation against the club in 2009, resulting in an accusation of "running a disorderly house injurious to the public welfare and morals", and asking for permanent revocation of the club's liquor license, which would result in the club closing permanently.[23]

The accusations pertain to lewd behavior at certain gay and lesbian events which no longer take place at the club. Members of the community[24] were outraged by the ABC's allegations and the severity of their proposed punishment. Many complained that ABC was unfairly targeting DNA Lounge, and their homosexual clientele in particular, pointing out that the specific allegations are far less "lewd" than the standard behavior at heterosexual strip clubs.[25] ABC has not commented on this accusation. Many have claimed that ABC's punishment is in retaliation to DNA's successful appeal to receive an all-ages license, and that this appears to be part of a larger shift in policy by the ABC to crack down on all-ages music venues.[26]

In April 2009, ABC ruled to revoke DNA Lounge's liquor license. DNA promptly filed an appeal citing insufficient evidence in the ABC's case as well as challenging the constitutionality of ABC's code[27] that pertain to regulating sexual behavior and morality.[28] DNA Lounge remained in business, pending resolution of their appeal, and a legal defense fund soliciting donations was set up to help offset the cost of contesting the decision.[29] On November 10, 2009, a settlement was announced, reducing the revocation of their license down to a 25-day suspension, effective January 4, 2010.[30]


DNA Lounge won "Best Dance Club" in the San Francisco Bay Guardian's "Best of the Bay" readers' poll in 2008,[31] 2009,[32] 2010,[33] 2011,[34] 2012,[35] 2014, 2016,[36] 2017,[37] 2019,[38] 2020,[39] 2021,[40] and 2022,[41] and "Best Bar Staff" in 2011[34] and 2012.[35] DNA Lounge won "Best Dance Club" in SF Weekly's "Best of SF" readers' poll in 2011,[42] 2013,[43] 2014,[44] 2017,[45] 2018,[46] and "Best Live Music Venue" in 2017.[45] A number of regular DNA Lounge events are perennial winners as well, including Bootie ("Best Party Producers", "Best Dance Party"), Smash-Up Derby ("Best Cover Band"), Death Guild ("Best Weeknight Dance Club",[47] "Best Dance Party"[39][41]), Hubba Hubba Revue ("Best Burlesque"[41]), Bohemian Carnival ("Best Circus Troupe"), Trannyshack ("Best Drag Show"), Bearracuda ("Best Club for Queer Men") and Fog City Wrestling ("Best Body Slams").

On November 22, 2010, the date of DNA Lounge's 25th anniversary, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors issued a resolution proclaiming that day to be "DNA Lounge Day",[48] "to convey the City's sincere respect for their ability to successfully run an entertainment business for the past 25 years."

On the same day, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom presented the club with a Certificate of Honor, stating that the club "contributes to the rich cultural history of San Francisco's entertainment scene and our beloved historic South of Market District."[48]

On December 11, 2017 the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and San Francisco Small Business Commission granted DNA Lounge Legacy Business status,[49] stating that such businesses are "the bedrock of our communities and a draw for tourists from around the world. Preserving our legacy businesses is critical to maintaining what it is that makes San Francisco a special place."[50]


Luxxury at DNA Lounge, March 17, 2007

The space functions as a venue for both live music and regular dance nights.

Popular regular events at DNA Lounge include:

DNA Lounge has also hosted several notable tech-industry events, such as CodeCon (a hacker con), Ignite (a technology conference), and BSidesSF (a computer security conference). The release of Mozilla 1.0 was celebrated there in 2002,[53] and the 10th anniversary of FreeBSD was celebrated there in 2003.[54] Cypress Hill's music video for "Insane in the Brain" was filmed at DNA Lounge in 1993.[55][56] In the background of some shots can be seen parts of the Keith Haring mural that used to adorn the walls of the upstairs lounge. The title sequence of the SingStar Amped video game was shot at DNA Lounge in 2007.[57][58]

Live music[edit]

DNA Lounge has been well known for both DJ dance nights and live concerts. Since the club was purchased by Zawinski, they have been focusing more on live music,[59] and in 2008 they procured an all-ages liquor license to facilitate this. Live concerts are all ages, and most other events are 18+.[60] Concert highlights since 1985[61][62] include:


  1. ^ "DNA Lounge: Directions".
  2. ^ a b "DNA Lounge: Facilities". 2012-10-06. Retrieved 2013-03-06.
  3. ^ a b Evany Thomas (2001-07-16). "From Netscape to Nightclub". Wired Magazine. Archived from the original on 2007-02-08. Retrieved 2009-02-26.
  4. ^ "DNA Lounge: Audio and Video Webcasts". Retrieved 2021-05-24.
  5. ^ "CHAPS Bar San Francisco".
  6. ^ "DNA Lounge: Ancient History: 1906–1998".
  7. ^ "Untitled blog entry about early history". 9 March 2000.
  8. ^ "DNA Lounge: Ancient History: 1906–1998". 2000-12-13. Retrieved 2009-02-26.
  9. ^ James Sullivan (2001-07-12). "DNA Lounge set to reopen tomorrow; New owner brings top technology". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2009-02-26.
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  11. ^ "Wherein the Empire Expands". DNA Sequencing (DNA Lounge blog). 2011-02-16. Retrieved 2011-07-27.
  12. ^ "Wherein this battle station is now fully operational". DNA Sequencing (DNA Lounge blog). 2012-10-25. Retrieved 2013-03-06.
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  14. ^ "DNA Lounge: Turbo Drive: 8th Anniversary, 18 Jun 2021 (Fri)". Retrieved 2021-06-21.
  15. ^ "Wherein we are now vaccinated-only". DNA Sequencing (DNA Lounge blog). 2021-08-01. Retrieved 2022-01-13.
  16. ^ "Wherein we have some nice press on our vaccination policy". DNA Sequencing (DNA Lounge blog). 2021-10-01. Retrieved 2022-01-13.
  17. ^ "Wherein Apple made vax QR codes easier". DNA Sequencing (DNA Lounge blog). 2021-10-26. Retrieved 2022-01-13.
  18. ^ "Wherein it's almost New Year's Eve". DNA Sequencing (DNA Lounge blog). 2021-12-30. Retrieved 2022-01-13.
  19. ^ @DeathGuildTwts (2022-01-13). "DNA will require Covid boosters. On dnalounge.com: "New rules: As of Jan 17th, you must show proof of a booster shot if you are more than 6 months from your first round. As of Jan 31st, you must also be two weeks past your booster." Monday Jan 17th = Next Death Guild!" (Tweet). Retrieved 2022-01-13 – via Twitter.
  20. ^ "Wherein we surrender unconditionally to the coronavirus". DNA Sequencing (DNA Lounge blog). 2022-04-19. Retrieved 2022-10-17.
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  23. ^ "Wherein a significant unredaction occurs at last". DNA Sequencing (DNA Lounge blog). 2009-02-13. Retrieved 2009-06-17.
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  27. ^ "California Code of Regulations". Archived from the original on 2009-04-30. Retrieved 2009-06-16.
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  29. ^ "Legal Defense Fund". DNA Lounge. 2009-02-22. Retrieved 2009-05-01.
  30. ^ "Wherein the axe falls". DNA Sequencing (DNA Lounge blog). 2009-11-10. Retrieved 2009-12-05.
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  33. ^ "Best of the Bay 2010". San Francisco Bay Guardian. 2010-07-27. Retrieved 2010-11-25.
  34. ^ a b "Best of the Bay 2011". San Francisco Bay Guardian. 2011-07-27. Retrieved 2011-07-27.
  35. ^ a b "Best of the Bay 2012". San Francisco Bay Guardian. 2012-07-24. Retrieved 2013-03-06.
  36. ^ "Best of the Bay 2016". 48 Hills. 2016-10-20. Retrieved 2018-05-21.
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  39. ^ a b "Best of the Bay 2020". 48 Hills. 2020-10-23. Retrieved 2020-12-22.
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  43. ^ "Best of SF 2013". SF Weekly. 2013-05-20. Retrieved 2018-05-21.
  44. ^ "Best of SF 2014". SF Weekly. 2014-05-07. Retrieved 2018-05-21.
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  49. ^ "Legacy Business Registry". 2017-12-11. Retrieved 2018-05-20.
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  57. ^ "Wherein we are burned into a zillion shiny metal discs". DNA Sequencing (DNA Lounge blog). 2008-07-02. Retrieved 2010-03-04.
  58. ^ "SingStar Amped title sequence". YouTube. 2007-09-18. Archived from the original on 2021-12-12. Retrieved 2010-03-04.
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  62. ^ "DNA Lounge Calendar: 1985–1999". 2009-04-04. Retrieved 2009-04-22.
  63. ^ Jim Harrington (2009-04-10). "Green Day unveils new album '21st Century Breakdown' in 2nd S.F. club gig". Mercury News. Retrieved 2009-04-22.
  64. ^ Ian S. Port (2013-04-23). "Prince Delights Himself (And a Small Crowd) at DNA Lounge". SF Weekly. Retrieved 2013-04-23.
  65. ^ Jim Harrington (2013-04-23). "Prince royally rocks San Francisco". San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved 2013-04-23.
  66. ^ Jamie Zawinsi. "1985–1999". DNA Lounge. Retrieved 2014-04-21.

External links[edit]