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Royal flush Prince's paisley parade marches on, despite what the critics say

Prince is pop music's tabula rasa. You can interpret him however you like.

Want him to be the funky sex god and logical precursor to hip-hop? He is that. Want him to be the suave American idol pouting all over the teen-dream screen in "Purple Rain"? Been there, done that -- and can still be that, if he feels like it. Want him to represent how far R&B has fallen, and how little genuine musicianship and musicality has been involved in the production of that idiom for the past two decades? He has done that, unquestionably.

With all these choices, it is both frustrating and odd that so many opt to cast upon Prince's blank slate the role of fallen giant, failed genius, and betrayer of his own talent. Yet even a casual glance at the veritable flood of press that greeted the Purple One's new album, "Planet Earth" -- out now in the States, following an earlier release in Europe -- reveals a community of pop scribes almost unanimously befuddled by Prince's inability to be what they want him to be -- which is essentially the Prince they knew when they were younger, thinner and had more hair.

When we arrived, a stylish crowd was happily enjoying drinks. It quickly became clear that this is one of the places to see and be seen for the young-professional crowd.

By Western New York standards, the lounge's prices could be considered a bit on the "snooty" side, though not unreasonable. I ordered, and was promptly served, what I thought was a modest selection: a Yuengling draft beer and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. At 12 bucks for the two, and tip on top of that, be ready to spend for a classy night out.

Drink selections were extensive. Beers on tap included Bass, Blue Moon, Stella Artois, Guinness and the aforementioned Yuengling. Perhaps the lack of a light-beer offering explains why many of the women were sipping pinkish martinis. Sleek, hanging light fixtures illuminated top-shelf liquors, including a spectrum of Johnnie Walker and elaborate vodka bottles. (I hear the food is good, too, with a menu that's reminiscent of tapas.)

Snooty Fox's tempting atmosphere and good-looking customers mask a couple of slight missteps. Most annoying was an indistinguishable bump, bump, bump dance beat served as the music for the evening. It seemed like the same tune was set to loop. Thankfully, there is relief: Jazz band Winelight provides the tunes from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. every Friday.

In the interest of public safety, if you want to enjoy the Fox's front patio for a smoke or some fresh air, your beverage must go into a plastic party cup: red for beer, clear plastic for everything else. So much for being seen on the street with your sexy wine glass.

But tiny qualms aside, the Snooty Fox has all the makings of a place poised to become one of the hottest spots in this burgeoning strip of Delaware. It's a spot to dress to the nines, schmooze with the beautiful people and experience what might be another step in Buffalo's renaissance.

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Snooty Fox Lounge

445 Delaware Ave.

Scene: A well-heeled crowd in its 20s mixes it up with couples looking for an after-dinner cocktail.

Dress Code: Go big or go home, as they say. Have a black, slinky number or suave suit coat you're dying to wear out on the town? This is the place.

Drinks: Good beer, fine wine and top-shelf booze. No "two for one" deals here.

Music: An indistinguishable dance beat was the evening's soundtrack.

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