Have you been out in the Mission lately? Did the bars seem crowded to you? They did to Mission Local, who discovered that Blondie's on Valencia — always a popular place to get an obscenely large and watery martini — was blowing their Fire Marshall-issued maximum capacity of 49 people by about 100 people on a recent busy night. But according to the Fire Department, it's not their job to do headcounts at these smaller establishments.
The Fire Department will only send out an inspector to the smaller spots if someone calls to complain. (And, let's be honest, being in uncomfortably close quarters with Mission folk seems to be a large part of the neighborhood's weekend draw.) SFFD does, however, check up on the bars with capacities of 50 people or more, but that rating requires business owners to apply for "place of public assembly" status — which they can't get if they only have a single exit. As a couple of bar owners told Mission Local off the record, they certainly wouldn't be turning a profit if they limited themselves to 49 customers at time. (We should also note here that the 49-person capacity is a bit of joke anyhow — any bar in the city with only one exit gets 49 max rating, provided they pass inspections.)
Anyhow, obviously the greater concern here is that these smallish drinking establishments are a huge fire hazard and we are all in grave danger of dying in a fire while some DJ plays old Madonna records at Beauty Bar. With San Francisco's drink-and-let-drink attitude, however, nobody seems to care much. When asked if they thought they could make it out of the bar in case of emergency, two Blondies patrons responded with a laugh: "Not if you’re in the back."