Girls’ night out at San Francisco’s 18+ club, DNA Lounge


Courtesy of Zahra Haider

Group selfie on one of DNA Lounge’s two dance floors.

With The Golden City right around the corner, venues for a girls’ night out are innumerable and invigorating. One such destination is DNA Lounge, an 18+ club boasting two stages, four dance floors and a whopping seven bars for its partygoers.

Nestled between a tiny sports bar and a glass company, DNA Lounge’s unassuming storefront leads to a vivacious assortment of colors, artists, drag performers and more. This vivacity is perhaps the reason the club was voted “Best Dance Club” and “Best Live Music Venue” by SF Weekly.

On a special Saturday evening, CSM students Sydney Mufarreh, 20, Zahra Haider, 19, Michelle Pena, 23, and Frankie Anguiano, 20, embarked on a girls’ night out to DNA Lounge’s Harry Styles theme night.

Mufarreh is not the first in her family to set foot in the lively club.

“I heard about DNA Lounge about a month ago when we were planning this outing, and I told one of my cousins about it,” said Mufarreh. “She told me that she went there when she was 18, maybe a couple of years ago. Then, I told my aunt about it, and she said she partied there when she was younger — she’s 45.

DNA Lounge has been hosting partygoers since 1985, which is part of the reason Anguiano also has a family history with the club.

“I heard about DNA Lounge from an ad on Instagram. I looked into it, and my mom had told me she’s been there before when she was younger — now she’s in her 50s,” said Anguiano.

An important element of the girls’ night out process is getting ready, and this group of girls fully revealed in that commencement of the night.

“We got ready about two hours before, just to have a lot of time to pick out our outfits and do a little fashion show,” said Haider. “We decided to coordinate and all wear all black. We spent about an hour and a half on hair and makeup. Then, Frankie’s boyfriend came to pick us up.”

Despite arriving 45 minutes late, getting into the club was a smooth and thrilling process.

“There was a really short line, just checking IDs, putting wristbands on those who are 21 and over and giving us tips,” Haider said.

Walking into the club for the first time is a moment Muffareh will never forget.

“When we first got there, we didn’t really know what to expect,” Muffareh said. “We were also freezing, very cold. So we walked in, and there was just immediate warmth. They immediately started playing one of our favorite songs by Harry Styles. We just melted into the night.”

Service is an important aspect of any outing. Haider recounts an interactive and intimate experience with the performers at the club.

“The DJs introduced themselves pretty quickly after we got there,” said Haider. “They explained the layout of the night and informed us that there was a hip-hop section at the top. They showed us how to request songs on Instagram. I think you could DM them on Instagram and tell them what song you want to be played.”

The DJs kept the energy going strong by including party-goers in fun games and activities.

“They had a competition where they pulled people from the crowd onto stage, and those who knew all the words to the songs by One Direction were also able to perform on stage, give a little dance and pass each level,” said Haider. “The finalist got a little tiara, and then after that, they pulled a few more people on stage.”

While they walked away from the night without a tiara, they eventually got to get up on the stage and gave a performance of their own.

“We were kind of upset that we didn’t get to go on right away, but then they pulled more people. So we were all happy and dancing together,” Anguiano said. “All the other girls and guys that were up there were very welcoming. Seeing Michelle and Sydney in the crowd and just feeling like we’re at a concert was so much fun.”

Not everyone enjoys being at the center of attention. Conversely, being in the crowd was equally as enjoyable for Pena.

“I was the one recording at the bottom and having fun in the crowd cheering for my friends,” Pena said.

At venues like an 18+ club, concerns around underage drinking are sure to arise. While DNA Lounge is not immune to breaches of the law, the girls recount management being careful about illicit affairs.

“They were really good about checking IDs before you got in,” Anguiano. “If you were drinking, you had to have a wristband.”

With seven bars to choose from, one might think accessing alcohol would be a matter of batting one’s eyes at the bartender. Fortunately, this age-old trick falls short at DNA Lounge.

“There was a bar at the back, but they were very cautious about taking wristbands,” Haider said. “We just purchased some water, so we didn’t have any and didn’t encounter it as much … Other than that, I didn’t see any open containers or open bottles of any form of alcohol on the dance floor. I hardly even saw people with drinks in their hands.”

Of course, a few people slipped through the cracks. If one group member is 21 and over, they could potentially serve drinks to their underage group members.

“When the rest of them had gone to the bathroom, I saw security with this group of girls,” said Anguiano. “I think one of them wasn’t 21 and was drinking, but security was really good about it. They took the drink from them and told them they can’t be drinking anymore. They talked to the people they were with who were 21 and older to make sure they didn’t give them anymore.”

Some additional rules at DNA Lounge pertain to safety in the wake of COVID-19. At this point of the pandemic, vaccine cards are no longer required for entry. However, masks are required when ordering food and drinks.

“There was a little pizza section in the back where we got some food,” said Haider. “You weren’t allowed to order unless you had a mask on. I was in line and hadn’t seen the mask required signs, so one of the cashiers handed me two masks.”

While COVID-19 is a formidable threat, the greatest danger at an 18+ club for a group out on girls’ night is sexual harassment, especially by older men.

“I know that DNA Lounge has a bit of a reputation for pedophilia because it is an 18 and up club,” Haider said. “Younger girls that are in high school and under 18 will go because it’s a lot easier for them to sneak in.”

While Haider did not feel threatened by the atmosphere personally, she could see potential avenues for the danger that could be better mitigated by the club.

“Older men were there mostly alone, and it became clear that they were not there to dance with their friends and have a good night,” Haider said. “They were just hovering over groups of girls… If I was a girl experiencing discomfort, there wouldn’t really be a space for me to go if I needed to get away from somebody or just walk away from the crowd.”

While all four girls attested to the great quality of security of DNA Lounge, they also strove to fill in the gaps of safety when needed.

“There was this one group that was dancing and this one man kept getting really close to them,” Anguiano said. “You could just tell that they were really uncomfortable. We tried to pull them away and have them dance with us so they wouldn’t be near them anymore.”

Looking back, the girls regard their night out fondly and hope to return to the club soon. Ultimately, the company takes precedence over the venue.

“We had a positive experience because we trusted each other,” Pena said. “It might be different if you go out with a group that you barely know or they have a different mood, like trying to hook up rather than having fun and hearing One Direction or whatever the theme of the night is.”

The hallmarks of a girls night out are friends, fun and feeling safe. DNA Lounge ticked all the boxes during this escapade, and any future trips will be measured against this exhilarating night.

“The theme nights are a big attraction for DNA Lounge,” Haider said. “I see ads all over Tik Tok and Instagram … I am wondering if it felt so safe because it was very women dominant during One Direction night, so that’s something we’ll have to see if we go back on a different theme.”