A darkened door greeted me at Icehouse on Thursday night and further investigation revealed that this bar – the first to fly in blues bands from Chicago, the home for Chopschticks comedy shows and a regular venue for Beijing Cheese Society events – has finally closed after a long struggle to push the high-end envelope in Wangfujing. Icehouse will apparently re-open elsewhere this fall as part of The Legation group of restaurants. Remaining area watering holes include Garden of Delights and Champagne. I’ll have more on the meltdown at Icehouse next issue. / Browns managing partner Philip Cheung married long-time girlfriend Amy at the pub over the holidays. Meanwhile, supervisor Jackie Kong is on extended leave and marketing head Graheme Drew has left for other pursuits, thus taking some energy and personality out of the bar. Browns will celebrate its one-year anniversary on Friday (January 19) with the two-for-one deal that got the place off to a flying start in the first place. / Word has it that Alex Kreilein, who appeared out of nowhere last year and started making good cheap drinks at Phil’s Pub, will return to our fair city this summer. Let’s hope he brings his cocktail shaker. / It’s been ages since my last reconnaissance mission around Workers’ Stadium and a recent hike showed that, beside obvious renovations to the sports facilities, change has been in the air. Gongti East: A sizeable complex now stands erect where the former Maggie’s once squatted and will apparently house fancy restaurants, bars and, if the lettering on a giant green tarp surrounding the place is right, a spa. Nearby, Le Quai continues to offer a nice spot for enjoying coffee and watching people skate. Gongti South: Dance club Mix has a new concrete facade adorned with giant posters advertising upcoming DJs. Across the way, scaffolding stands about three meters in front of Vics and Outback Steakhouse, where a large sign proclaims it is “business as usual” at the latter. Gongti West: Club central remains home to the city’s most ferocious liquor advertising battle, with Johnnie Walker, Chivas and Hennessey fighting for space. The building behind is packed with restaurants, including Three Guizhou Men, Mallikan (Indian), Hot Loft (hot pot), Kuo Bee Pen Da (Chinese) and Coco Cafe, as well as the new Club Babi. Gongti South: As mentioned, Pipes Cafe went singular and dropped the “s” while investing in a new sign that pays homage to Coors Light, while upscale spots such as Face (up the street) and China Lounge (just inside the park) have upped the ante in this area. / A year since my last visit to Souk and this place remains a decent Saturday night retreat, with plenty of nooks for chatting, drinking and, for those who are pretentious or just too lazy to smoke a cigarette, enjoying hookahs. The major drawback: my Bloody Mary came with about a half-ounce of vodka and no Worchester Sauce or celery salt, the latter two ingredients easily available at Jenny Lou’s up the street. / China Expat Magazine published its “2006 China National Bar Awards,” which cover an impressive 25 cities as well as Ulan Bator in Mongolia. The picks for Beijing were Centro, Suzie Wong, Browns, Aperitivo, Bookworm, Face, Pavillion and Maggies. See www.chinaexpat.com for details. / Numerous readers have complained about service at The Bookworm. My own story unfolded last month, when I took two visiting journalists there for lunch to show off the place. We, like most patrons, spent an hour having our annoyance at the long wait for food interrupted by spurts of anticipation whenever a waiter appeared with a plate (is it mine? is it mine?). Turns out much of the kitchen staff had quit. Fine, but why not tell people, so they can decide, on a working day, if the wait is worth it? To its credit, The Bookworm waived our bill, and I’ve since been back for lunch with no problems, but it seems there is some disgruntlement out there and that mixed experiences (see Choose the Gerbil! below) are par for the course at this busy spot (and yes, we do appreciate the books and seminars).