DNA Lounge logo
|Location||SoMa, San Francisco|
|Type||Nightclub, Restaurant, Cafe|
|Opened||November 22, 1985|
|Renovated||July 13, 2001|
|Expanded||October 23, 2012|
DNA Lounge is a late-night, all ages nightclub in the SoMa district of San Francisco owned by Jamie Zawinski, a former Netscape programmer and open-source software hacker. The club features DJ dancing, live music, burlesque performances, and occasionally conferences, private parties, and film premieres. It is located at 375 Eleventh Street, near Harrison Street.
DNA Lounge has seven full bars, two stages, four dance floors, and a full service 24-hour pizza restaurant and cafe. The club has a number of unconventional features, including a free wireless network for internet access. The club also provides continuous audio and video webcasts of all events free of charge.
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.
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 a connecting door to the DNA Lounge main room. On some nights, the main room and Above DNA operate separately, with different events in each; but 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.
For live shows, the capacity of the main room is around 800, and Above DNA is around 300.
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". Jim English left around 1988 to open Club Townsend, while restauranteur 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 restauranteur 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.
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.
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. That merger was completed in 2012, and the expanded club debuted on October 23, 2012.
Conflict with local regulatory agencies
During the period that DNA Lounge was closed, Zawinski spearheaded a successful grassroots effort to maintain its late-night permits, 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.
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.
The accusations pertain to lewd behavior at certain gay and lesbian events which no longer take place at the club. Members of the community 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. 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.
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 that pertain to regulating sexual behavior and morality. 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. On November 10, 2009, a settlement was announced, reducing the revocation of their license down to a 25-day suspension, effective January 4, 2010.
DNA Lounge won "Best Dance Club" in the San Francisco Bay Guardian's "Best of the Bay" readers' poll in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2014, and "Best Bar Staff" in 2011 and 2012. 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"), Hubba Hubba Revue ("Best Burlesque"), 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", "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."
The space functions as a venue for both live music and regular dance nights.
Popular regular events at DNA Lounge include:
- Bootie, a weekly Saturday all-mashup dance night
- Death Guild, the longest-running weekly gothic/industrial dance night in the country
- Meat, an industrial dance night featuring free barbecued meat
- New Wave City, San Francisco's longest-running new wave and 80s event
- Hubba Hubba Revue, a monthly burlesque show, featuring classic striptease, vaudeville comedy, variety acts, and live music
- Mortified, an event where adults read from their most embarrassing adolescent journals.
- Odd Salon, a monthly lecture series on various topics. "Expert talks on odd topics; odd talks on everything else."
DNA Lounge has also hosted several notable tech-industry events, such as CodeCon (a hacker con), Ignite (a technology conference), and B-Sides (a computer security conference). The release of Mozilla 1.0 was celebrated there in 2002, and the 10th anniversary of FreeBSD was celebrated there in 2003. Cypress Hill's music video for "Insane in the Brain" was filmed at DNA Lounge in 1993. 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.
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, and in 2008 they procured an all-ages liquor license to facilitate this. Currently, dance events are generally 21+, but most live shows are all ages. Concert highlights since 1985 include:
- Abney Park (2010)
- Afrika Bambaataa (2002, 2004, 2005)
- Agent Orange (1986)
- Alien Sex Fiend (1990)
- Anamanaguchi (2009, 2010, 2011)
- Andre Nickatina (2009)
- Aphrodite (2003)
- Arrested Development (1992)
- Bad Manners (2002)
- Borgore (2011)
- Brand X (1993)
- Brand New Heavies (1991)
- Cherry Poppin' Daddies (1995)
- Celldweller (2003)
- Chris Isaak (1986, 1987)
- Club Foot Orchestra (1987)
- Consolidated (1988)
- Counting Crows (1992, 1994, 1995)
- Crash Worship (1998)
- Cypress Hill (1993)
- Das Racist (2012)
- Dead Serious (2011, 2012)
- D.O.A. with Jello Biafra (1990)
- Deftones (1996)
- Destruction (2014)
- Digable Planets (2005, 2008)
- Digital Underground (2004, 2005)
- El Vez (1995)
- Epica (2010)
- Eric Lewis (2009)
- Exene Cervenka (1996)
- Finntroll (2011)
- Fishbone (2010)
- The Fixx (2003)
- Flipper (1987)
- A Flock of Seagulls (1989)
- Foetus Inc. (1990, 1991)
- Front 242 (2005)
- Game Theory (1986)
- Garaj Mahal (2001, 2002)
- Genitorturers (2003-2006)
- Goldie (2003, 2004)
- Grandmaster Flash (2002)
- Green Day (2009)
- Groovie Ghoulies (2005, 2006)
- GWAR (2004)
- GZA (2004)
- Hallucinogen (2001)
- Hanzel und Gretyl (2003, 2010)
- Henry Rollins (1987)
- House of Pain (1992)
- Hypocrisy (2010)
- Incredibly Strange Wrestling (2002-2007)
- Infected Mushroom (2002)
- Information Society (2007-2008)
- Invisibl Skratch Piklz (1993, 1994)
- Jello Biafra (1990, 1996, 2009)
- Jim Carroll (1986)
- The Jim Rose Circus (1993, 2009)
- Julian Cope (1991)
- KMFDM (2002, 2004)
- Korpiklaani (2009, 2011, 2012)
- KRS-One (2003)
- Lee Presson and the Nails (2006-2012)
- Legendary Pink Dots (1995)
- Lene Lovich (1990)
- Lords of Acid (2010)
- Lydia Lunch (1987, 1996)
- Marduk (2012)
- Mark Farina (2001-2007 residency)
- Marques Wyatt (2002-2007 residency)
- MCM and the Monster (1995)
- Me First and the Gimme Gimmes (2007, 2012)
- Miami Horror (2011)
- Midnight Oil (1993)
- Miguel Migs (2001-2008)
- The Misfits (2007)
- Mixmaster Mike (2004)
- The Mutants (1989)
- My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult (2002-2012)
- Nas (1996)
- Neurosis (1995, 2002)
- New Model Army (1993, 2003-2009)
- Nina Hagen (2002-2005)
- Opio (2005, 2008)
- Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (1991)
- Origin (2012)
- Peelander-Z (2011, 2012, 2013)
- Pentagram (2009, 2010)
- The Phenomenauts (2004-2012)
- Phish (1991, 1994)
- Pigface (2001, 2003, 2005)
- Primus (1988, 1991)
- Prince (1993, 1997, 2013)
- The Prodigy (1991)
- Psychic TV (1986, 2004)
- Q-Bert (2003, 2005)
- Reverend Horton Heat (1996)
- The Roots (1995)
- Run-D.M.C. (1996)
- S.U.N. Project (2002)
- Sean Paul (2005)
- Sepultura (2012)
- Sorrow (2004)
- Spin Doctors (1991)
- Spinderella (2003)
- Steel Pole Bath Tub (2002)
- Swans (1992)
- Swingin' Utters (2002)
- Talib Kweli (2002)
- Turisas (2012)
- 2 Live Crew (1990)
- Village People (1996)
- VNV Nation (1999, 2001, 2005, 2010)
- Voltaire (2005)
- W.A.S.P. (2004)
- Z-Trip (2003)
- Evany Thomas (2001-07-16). "From Netscape to Nightclub". Wired Magazine. Retrieved 2009-02-26.
- "DNA Lounge: Facilities". 2012-10-06. Retrieved 2013-03-06.
- "DNA Lounge: Ancient History: 1906-1998".
- "DNA Lounge Blog about early days".
- "DNA Lounge: Ancient History: 1906-1998". 2000-12-13. Retrieved 2009-02-26.
- James Sullivan (2001-07-12). "DNA Lounge set to reopen tomorrow; New owner brings top technology". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2009-02-26.
- "DNA Lounge blog entry about kiosks". 2009-07-05. Retrieved 2009-08-29.
- "DNA Lounge blog entry: "Wherein the Empire Expands"". 2011-02-16. Retrieved 2011-07-27.
- "DNA Lounge blog entry: "Wherein this battle station is now fully operational"". 2012-10-25. Retrieved 2013-03-06.
- Andrew Leonard (2000-02-10). "Free the Night Life!". Salon. Retrieved 2009-02-26.
- "DNA Lounge blog entry about permit change". 2008-08-18. Retrieved 2009-06-17.
- "DNA Lounge blog entry about ABC accusations". 2009-02-13. Retrieved 2009-06-17.
- Matthew S. Bajko (2009-02-26). "Gay party venue fights to remain open". Bay Area Reporter. Retrieved 2011-07-27.
- Violet Blue (2009-02-26). "The ABC's New Anti-Gay Crusade? ABC's recent targeting of LGBT events at the DNA Lounge is a tragic non-surprise.". San Francisco Bay Guardian. Retrieved 2009-06-16.
- Marisa Lagos (2009-04-11). "State goes after legendary all-ages music clubs". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2009-06-16.
- "California Code of Regulations". Retrieved 2009-06-16.
- "DNA Lounge blog entry about filing of appeal". 2009-04-11. Retrieved 2009-06-16.
- "Legal Defense Fund". DNA Lounge. 2009-02-22. Retrieved 2009-05-01.
- "DNA Lounge blog entry regarding settlement". 2009-11-10. Retrieved 2009-12-05.
- "Best of the Bay 2008". San Francisco Bay Guardian. 2008-07-29. Retrieved 2009-02-26.
- "Best of the Bay 2009". San Francisco Bay Guardian. 2009-07-29. Retrieved 2009-08-29.
- "Best of the Bay 2010". San Francisco Bay Guardian. 2010-07-27. Retrieved 2010-11-25.
- "Best of the Bay 2011". San Francisco Bay Guardian. 2011-07-27. Retrieved 2011-07-27.
- "Best of the Bay 2012". San Francisco Bay Guardian. 2012-07-24. Retrieved 2013-03-06.
- "Board of Supervisors Proclamation, "DNA Lounge Day"". 2010-11-22. Retrieved 2010-11-25.
- "It's Better and Cheaper than Therapy". Newsweek. 2006-07-24. Retrieved 2010-11-25.
- "Ten Years of FreeBSD: Anniversary Party a Success". 2003-11-25. Retrieved 2013-07-29.
- "Cypress Hill music video for Insane In The Brain". 1992. Retrieved 2010-03-04.
- "DNA Lounge blog entry explaining architectural features visible in the Cypress Hill video". 2001-09-18. Retrieved 2010-03-04.
- "DNA Lounge blog entry about SingStar Amped". 2008-07-02. Retrieved 2010-03-04.
- "SingStar Amped title sequence". 2007-09-18. Retrieved 2010-03-04.
- "DNA Lounge blog entry about live music". 2007-04-18. Retrieved 2009-06-17.
- "DNA Lounge". 2009-02-26. Retrieved 2009-02-26.
- "Bands that have performed at DNA Lounge". 2010-12-06. Retrieved 2010-12-06.
- "DNA Lounge Calendar: 1985-1999". 2009-04-04. Retrieved 2009-04-22.
- 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.
- Ian S. Port (2013-04-23). "Prince Delights Himself (And a Small Crowd) at DNA Lounge". SF Weekly. Retrieved 2013-04-23.
- Jim Harrington (2013-04-23). "Prince royally rocks San Francisco". San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved 2013-04-23.
- Jamie Zawinsi. "1985-1999". DNA Lounge. Retrieved 2014-04-21.