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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

DNA Lounge Agrees to Suspension, Probation Over 'Lewdness' Charge

Posted By on Wed, Nov 11, 2009 at 1:30 PM

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A SoMa club has ostensibly reached a truce in its long and contentious engagement with a powerful state agency -- but, as cost, the music will be off for a little while.

DNA Lounge representative Jamie Zawinski announced on the club's blog today that the besieged nightclub negotiated a settlement with the state's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) that includes a 25-day suspension -- the club will be closed Jan. 4 through Jan. 28 -- and several years of probation.

As SF Weekly has reported in the past, ABC's battle with the DNA Lounge has been ongoing since April 2007 when the club applied to change its liquor license to allow for all-ages events. In order to do this, the lounge installed a $50,000 kitchen because the permit for such a license stipulates that an all-ages music venue also be a legitimate eating establishment. When ABC rejected the application, the lounge appealed the decision -- at which point Zawinski claims the state agency started sending undercover agents in during gay and lesbian promotional events, "looking for dirt."

In July, 2008, the lounge reached a settlement with ABC that finally granted the club permission for the change of  liquor license status. But just before DNA Lounge could enjoy the fruits of its labors, ABC slapped it with another citation -- this time, for "lewdness," "discrimination", and for being a "disorderly house injurious to the public welfare and morals."

As a result, the DNA Lounge canceled the two events that brought about the ABC's ire -- the only gay and lesbian events offered at the club. Still, ABC sought the maximum allowable penalty -- outright revocation of the lounge's liquor license. SF Weekly's messages for Zawinski and members of club management regarding the settlement have not yet been returned.

ABC's crackdowns on local all-ages venues have extended beyond just the DNA Lounge (see SF Weekly's coverage here). A host of local venues have had to pony up thousands in legal fees to deal with ABC's charges that clubs are not making enough money off of food, among other permit technicalities. The aforementioned citation, however, differs from the rest in that it implies the lounge is allowing for "lewdness" at the venue. A representative from the Lounge told SF Weekly that, despite the citations, they have still been able host all-ages events with their current liquor license.

SF Weekly has a call in to ABC and is awaiting a response.

UPDATE: Zawinski wrote in an email to SF Weekly that although the suspension isn't exactly great news, it's also "better than a death sentence," reads the email. Zawinski adds that they are relieved to be done with the fight considering how costly, draining, and demoralizing it has been for everyone working there. "It seems obvious to me that this was vindictive: we had the audacity to appeal -- and win -- and so they sent in their undercover agents to find something, anything, to attack us with. In the case of DNA Lounge, they found 'lewd behavior' at an over-21 gay dance party. When they attack Slim's, they use noise. When they attack Bottom of the Hill, they use food service, and so on. It's a clear pattern of abuse."

Still no word from ABC.

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