Issue:  Vol. 44 / No. 31 / 31 July 2014
 
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Online extra: Political Notes: Gay-friendly club ends
legal battle with ABC

NEWS


m.bajko@ebar.com

DNA Lounge owner Jamie Zawinski, right, has reached a settlement with the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. At left is club manger Barry Synoground Photo: Rick Gerharter
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The years-long dispute between the straight owners of the DNA Lounge, a gay-friendly dance club south of Market Street, and the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control has finally come to an end. Rather than having its liquor license permanently revoked, the late-night venue will instead close for several weeks in early 2010.

According to a posting on the venue's Web site, it will shutter for 25 days this January and be put on probation for "a few years" in a deal it hammered out with the state agency.

"We fought this, obviously. The appeals process was lengthy and expensive, but we eventually managed to negotiate a settlement. Instead of revoking our liquor license, they are suspending it for 25 days," wrote DNA owner Jamie Zawinski on the club's Web site last week. "We will be closed from Monday, January 4 through Thursday, January 28, and that will basically be the end of it. There are also a few years of 'probation' on top of the suspension (basically meaning that if they hit us with a second accusation of being a 'disorderly house', that would be really bad), but this 25-day suspension should be the end of this battle."

So far the ABC has declined to comment on the deal it struck with the DNA owners.

Openly gay mayoral candidate and District 8 Supervisor Bevan Dufty met with Steve Hardy , the onetime San Francisco cop who now leads the ABC, last week and was told of the settlement agreement. He said he was glad to learn that the club would not have to permanently close its doors.

"Considering the potential for the revocation of their license, this is definitely on the happier end of the spectrum," said Dufty. "I am glad the club will continue to be a venue for our community."

The club has been battling efforts to shut it down since 2008, when state regulators labeled it a public nuisance due to nudity and simulated sex acts occurring at club nights marketed to gay Latinos and lesbians. The club no longer hosts the parties in question, but it has remained a home for LGBT events; it is where this year's 11th annual Trannyshack Star Search competition will take place December 19.

DNA Lounge management claimed the accusations were retaliation by the ABC because they successfully sued the agency so they could host 18 and over events. In his online posting, Zawinski estimated he and his partners have spent more than $140,000 so far in their fight with the ABC.

He has established a legal defense fund and is asking for supporters to donate online at the club's Web site at http://www.dnalounge.com/donate/.

"We need your help. The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control spend [sic] most of 2009 trying to put DNA Lounge permanently out of business. They accused us of 'running a disorderly house injurious to the public welfare and morals,' and wanted to permanently revoke our liquor license. Had they succeeded, we would have had to close," wrote Zawinksi. "We had to fight the state of California over our alcohol license for more than two years, and the process was extremely expensive. As you can imagine, it's hard enough running a small business during a recession without also having to fight your own state government who are trying to destroy you."

LGBT travelers find SF a bargain

While the recession of 2009 had some impact on LGBT travel to San Francisco, it was not as severe as some cities experienced. So found the 14th annual Gay and Lesbian Tourism Study, conducted by the San Francisco-based market research firm Community Marketing Inc.

"The major gay destinations saw relatively little leisure travel decline. Competitors like Boston and Dallas saw huge declines. The less priority destinations is where the fall off happened during the recession," said David Paisley, the firm's senior research director.

Based on responses from 4,726 LGBT survey-takers living in the United States, the agency found that almost all destinations experienced a decrease in LGBT travel this year due to the faltering economy except for Washington, D.C. In 2009, 23 percent of respondents said they had visited the nation's capital, the same percent as in 2008.

"With all the cities their business travel just plummeted, expect D.C. most likely because of the Obama effect," said Paisley. "They have all the special events, the marches, the Obama inauguration."

Boston saw its LGBT tourism drop from 17 percent in 2008 to 13 percent this past year. Dallas garnered a nearly 13 percent response last year; this year it dropped to 11 percent.

According to the survey, the top seven LGBT destinations in the U.S. experienced the least drop off in LGBT visitors, while other destinations experienced larger declines. Overall, leisure travel declined slightly among LGBT travelers, but gay and lesbian business travel and cruise travel saw steeper drop-offs, reported the firm.

Once again New York City took top honors, with 32 percent of respondents saying they had visited; while San Francisco beat out several challengers for the second place spot with 27 percent of survey-takers saying they had come to the city by the bay.

Las Vegas earned third place with 26 percent; Chicago was fourth with 25 percent and Los Angeles/West Hollywood took fifth place with 24 percent. Paisley said the Windy City is still reaping the dividends from playing host to Gay Games VII in 2006.

The top five rankings did not change from last year's survey results, though some of the percentages dipped. In 2008, 33 percent of respondents had visited New York City; while 30 percent had traveled to San Francisco. Las Vegas garnered nearly 30 percent last year, Chicago garnered 28 percent and the Los Angeles area received 27 percent.

Paisley said the reason travel to San Francisco held steady this past year was likely due to hotel rates falling in the city.

"San Francisco has never been a better value hotel-wise. In terms of gay and lesbian travelers, they saw that and they came," he said. "In San Francisco the under 30s also showed really great strength. They are ranking higher than the over 40s. Not sure what that is about; it may be about the value in hotels. They are seeing that better value and are just coming."

The Napa Valley and Russian River region did not fare as well. It fell from 17th place last year with nearly 13 percent to being tied for 20th place in 2009 with Sonoma County and Provincetown, Massachusetts. All three received 9 percent this year.

For more of a break down by age group and type of travel, visit the firm's Web site at http://communitymarketinginc.com/media.php.

Keep abreast of the latest LGBT political news by following the Political Notebook on Twitter @ http://twitter.com/politicalnotes.

Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 861-5019 or e-mail m.bajko@ebar.com.






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