Business Shortfall Could Force DNA Lounge to Close

Attendees gather on DNA Lounge's several levels at the Punk-Metal Flea Market on Nov. 13, 2016. Photo by Geoffrey Smith for DNA LoungeAttendees gather on DNA Lounge's several levels at the Punk-Metal Flea Market on Nov. 13, 2016. Photo by Geoffrey Smith for DNA Lounge

The storied DNA Lounge may soon vanish from SoMa if it isn’t able to raise funding, closing its doors to the goths, creatives and art-seekers who have escaped into the venue since the early 1980s.

After playing a pivotal role at Netscape during the early 1990s, current owner Jamie Jawinski converted his wealth into DNA Lounge to reconcile the tech boom’s impact on San Francisco culture, one he viewed as dramatically negative.

He announced the club’s impending closure on Monday, saying he had run out of money after supporting the venue with his own finances for 17 years.

“DNA Lounge has always been a political project: an attempt to move the needle of culture in this city,” Jawinski wrote on the club’s website.

The large club includes licensed all-ages venue Codeword, secured by Jawinski following a two-year legal battle, and 24-hour restaurant DNA Pizza.

Construction on Codeword ended in 2015, and a second DNA Pizza location opened during a peak in the club’s business, but DNA Lounge attendance has dropped by 15 percent in 2016, according to Jawinski.

“Couple this with the fact that Codeword has no business to speak of, and we’re screwed,” he wrote.

He says the business is now losing approximately $380,000 per year, and more than 800 visitors a week are needed to break even. The DNA stage is still accepting bookings, but Jawinski is searching for community funds to revive the beloved club.

Daniel Knop, a vocalist for post-punk band Roadside Memorial, has frequented DNA Lounge since the 1980s. He now lives in Nevada, but performed at DNA several times throughout the last decade, including acting as Jesus in the club’s production of rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar.

Roadside Memorial has plans to headline a show at the venue in the spring, and Knop said he hopes DNA Lounge does not become “another San Francisco casualty.”

“Right now it’s up to everyone to just keep going, if people wanna keep it around they have to invest in it,” he said.

In 2010, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom awarded DNA Lounge with a Certificate of Honor for its “atmosphere of safe and lively entertainment,” in contributing to the “rich cultural history of San Francisco entertainment scene.” The city also proclaimed November 22, 2010 as “DNA Lounge Day.”

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