The venue first opened for business in 1977 as a leather bar called Chaps, owned by Chuck Slaton.
In 1985 it was purchased by Jim English, Jeff Mason, 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". The earliest regular DJs were Ted Cousens, Adam Fisher, 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 as he became a star. Some nights were genre-specific, with both live bands and DJs. Notable nights and resident DJ's 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 alternative, gothic, 80's and industrial) and Kelly Spencer (who played punk and new wave on Tuesdays). 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 early 90s, 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. It 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 Tim Dale, John Schneider, and comedian/actor Rob Schneider. 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, the Schneiders had to devote the bulk of their time to Rob's TV sitcom Men Behaving Badly. They left the daily operations of the club to subordinates, and it fell into disrepair.
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.
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.
Read more about this topic: DNA Lounge
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