No trip to San Francisco is complete without stopping by at DNA Lounge. With two stages, seven full bars, and four dance floors, there’s always something exciting happening at this late-night, all-ages nightclub. Many features set this club apart from other venues, but one of the most interesting things about DNA Lounge is that there are sixteen video cameras set up around the space. Using this feature, the club has made it possible for people across the world to watch webcasts of all events, free of charge, and turning their parties into worldwide community events, where everyone is a performer.
But if that’s possible, you might wonder why you would actually head out to the venue – but witnessing a live performance at DNA lounge is an unparalleled experience, not to be missed if you can help it. The lounge is divided into two spaces – the main room, and Above DNA, which is a smaller live music venue with its own stage and a couple of dance floors. Between these two spaces, the capacity can go up to 800, making DNA lounge a perfectly intimate mid-sized venue; not so big you lose the show, but not so small you only share it with the people who came with you. The main room features a stage with a bar at the opposite end. In between is an expansive, wall-to-wall dance floor, and above the ground level is a balcony that runs along the three sides surrounding the stage.
Back in 1983, the space first opened to the public as a leather bar called Chaps. When the ownership changed hands in 1985, the venue was renamed as DNA Lounge. Even then, the lounge was famous for being generous with its entry tickets. During the 80s, the lounge offered membership for a meager $10. With this pass in your hand, you could enjoy free entry on most nights. The club was also generous to its employees, each of whom received a gold card that could let in four guests free of charge. The point was always to create a vibe, to get a party started, to share the love; and it worked.
Eventually, the club went from one hand to another in 1994 and then again in 1999, when finally, Jamie Zawinski purchased the venue. Over the years since then, he’s altered and expanded it into the fabulous space we know and love today. In the past decade alone, DNA Lounge has been showered with a ton of awards. In San Francisco Bay Guardian’s “Best of the Bay” poll, the lounge emerged as the “Best Dance Club” from 2008 to 2012, and then again in 2014, 2016, and 2017. The venue was also awarded the “Best Bar Staff” title in 2011 and 2012.
There’s no lack of excitement at the venue, with many popular regular events like Bootie (their weekly all-mashup dance night), Death Guild (a weekly gothic dance night), Hubba Hubba (a monthly burlesque show), and Hoodslam (their underground wrestling event). All of these are true, and it gives you a sense of the glorious, eclectic, all-comers approach at DNA Lounge. Over time live music has become a larger part of what they do, and since 1985 they’ve had shows from Grandmaster Flash, Voltaire, Spinderella, W.A.S.P, and Z-Trip.
Upcoming live shows include Jazz Mafia, Mason Bates, Death Angel, Dynohunter, and Thrill Kill Kult, among others. If you’re in SoMa, make sure you drop in at DNA Lounge sometime.