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No hotel bar is created equal—the trendy boutiques, blue-blood relics, and ubiquitous chains that populate the city vary wildly in price and patronage. But they do share one thing: a crowd that likes to party on a Monday night as much as it does on a Friday. After all, every night's a weekend when you're on vacation.

Those mourning the untimely demise of the Greatest Bar on Earth (1 World Trade Center, 107th floor) may have to make due with RISEat the Ritz-Carlton (2 West Street, 344-0800) till a worthwhile substitute comes along. Although the 14th-floor newcomer isn't likely to induce vertigo, the beautiful harbor view of Lady Liberty will definitely make some jaws drop. The wall-to-wall-carpeted bar and lounge caters to a finely groomed clientele of expense-account holders, snooty hotel tenants, and nouveau riche tourists. After downing a $13 Passionate (pureed passion fruit and Bacardi Orange) from the signature martini list and chatting up the friendly bartenders, even the occasional misplaced downtowner—in this case, me—will feel more at ease with the pin-sporting Harvard Business School set. And at $465 a night for a hotel room, you'll be content riding the 4/5 train home for only $1.50. —GRACE BASTIDAS

"I feel thin, like butter spreadover too much bread," said Bilbo in Lord of the Rings. After 10 minutes of sitting at one of the tables in the Marcel Hotel's chichi bar SPREAD(201 East 24th Street, 696-3800) before anyone even greeted me, I began to wonder if I, too, was wearing a ring of invisibility. The brick bar's quasi-Asian decor—bamboo shoots, tasteful halo and flypaper tube lights, throw pillows, and comfy brown leather chairs—reminded me of an upscale version of my parents' '70s apartment clubhouse. But appearances aren't everything: The 90210-ish American Express Gold Card-wielding patrons seemed more like recently graduated TGIF'ers than frequenters of a bar at a hotel with $155 rooms. The $12 Jude (OJ, champagne, Chambord, passion fruit) was tasty, but the $16 dragon roll (eel, cucumber, and avocado; with a dandelion in the wasabi?) was dry and chewy. As another Prince song started, I took off my ring and was sadly spotted—just in time for my check. —DAVID SHAWN BOSLER

"The ladies always bring luck," says bartender Fernanda, buying us our second round of Absolut and Ketel One mixes ($7.50). She's been working at the LOBBY BAR OF THE BEST WESTERN(234 West 48th Street, 632-9000) for two months, and we're the first group of girls to hold court at the faux-orange-marble semicircle bar with flashing blue holiday lights and bird-of-paradise wallpaper theme. It's only a Tuesday night, but within minutes the place fills up with the hotel's $99.95-for-a-standard-room bargain hunters—Albanian mobsters, Midwestern couples, and Eastern European dissidents. So much cooler than the stodgy businessmen looking to pick us up later at the Waldorf-Astoria's library-like BULL AND BEAR(570 Lexington Avenue, 872-4900). Here, the guests cough up about $250 for a room, come from places like Toronto and Dallas, and hold sales jobs for such conglomerates as Pfizer Inc. A Grey Goose mix ($13.53) will secure you their company at the asterisk-shaped mahogany bar, where the people-watching—bald men and the bleach-blond floozies who love them—is an entertaining anthropology experiment in the making. —C. SPARTOS

 
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