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Lounges are more popular than ever, and while it's easy to write them off as bastions of snobbery flocked to by Page Six types and their flacks, they can still offer fabulous—and yes, expensive—cocktails, lush couches, and bubbly music. From au courant debauchery to needed respite, four-star hotel to low-rent cornerstone, the allure of the lounge lies in its elasticity. Pick your poison.

Like the airport bar, the hotel lounge is wrapped in mystery and intrigue. Walk into Tribeca Grand's cavernous CHURCH LOUNGE (2 Sixth Avenue, 519-6600) and smell the chlorine that wafts from the pool. If by chance the rather scatterbrained hostess informs you that the divan your ass is comfortably parked on is reserved and then leaves you for dead, head to the packed bar, where an armylike staff may make you wait, and wait. (One bartender: "If someone had asked me when I was 20 if I'd be doing this now, I'd have said, 'You're fucking crazy.' ") In the meantime, take bets on whether the blue cheese-stuffed olives in the Ten Commandments martini ($13) arrive in the glass or on the side (in the glass!). But you'll repent for ever being disgusted by the sight of Tanqueray Ten-drenched Maytag; it's that heavenly. And if you don't trust me, taste the Forbidden Fruit ($12)—Skyy vodka and Apple & Eves Temptation—which, sinner that you are, may grant you clemency. Two will have you on the floor, so make sure you don't get charged for, say, a glass of Veuve Clicquot ($16) you never drank. (Hey, I promised intrigue.) And one more thing: Who's in charge of the soundtrack? Because there's nothing sorrier than a bunch of rich white people scarfing $16 all-egg-white omelettes to Lil' Kim.

If the Church belongs to the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, then the Ameritania Hotel's TWIST LOUNGE (230 West 54th Street, 247-5000) is the domain of Mary Tyler Moore. Watch Midwestern tourists get down to a 15-minute-long Yaz remix! (Hey, I promised mystery.) Dig the Tupperware decor! Yes, this lounge offers all that and a complimentary bowl of Chex Mix. Order the signature Twist ($10.80), which is basically a giant lemon drop, or a sweet manhattan ($9.60) from the amicable bartender. The extensive cocktail list—incorporating such strange ingredients as Godiva liqueur—is a little lacking in the zazz department (plus they've got names like the David Letterman), but they're really big, and who cares when you're having this much fun?

Boys' night out: Show your true colors at Hannah's Lava Lounge.
photo: Aaron Lee Fineman
Boys' night out: Show your true colors at Hannah's Lava Lounge.

When you grow tired of all the out-of-towner kitsch, do like the locals and head to the homegrown rainbow-flag-waving HANNAH'S LAVA LOUNGE (923 Eighth Avenue, 974-9087)—loungey in the old-school, neighborly sense. Let Shawn the bartender regale you with the Eighth Wonder of the Western World (a Post clip reporting a counterfeit $200 bill with a smirking G. Dubya on its face); play "Cast the New Scooby-Doo Movie" (starring Chastity Bono as Velma!); chat up Rocky Horror cast members; and hear decadent tales of Ibiza. And since you've staggered in from all that vodka, it's high time you treated yourself to a bottle of Bud ($3.50) anyway.

 
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