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Watering holes <br> Drink up the view at these area bars and restaurants

Next weekend we celebrate our independence from Great Britain, and in more practical terms, winter.

Yes, it's officially time to shed our inhibitions (and clothing).

Faster than Danny chased Sandy down the beach in "Grease," Western New Yorker's can get to the water -- and a cold libation or two -- like greased lightening.

Bars on the beach, bars on the canal, bars on the river. Our margarita runneth over.

The undisputable kings of the summer beach scene are Mickey Rats/Captain Kidd's in Angola and Sunset Bay/Cabana Sam's in Irving -- establishments with a long history of fun in the sun. Their Sunday beach days are legendary.

These joints have it all. Prime beach, prime drinks -- even prime rib.

And thankfully, no Snooki.

"People in other cities would love to be able to take a half-hour or 45-minute ride to get to a beach," says Richie Alberts, owner of Rats/Kidd's. "Where else would anyone want to be in the summer? Can you imagine living in the Midwest?"

Considering the size of our lake, it's amazing that Rats/Kidd's and Sunset/Sam's are the only two places of their kind in Western New York.

"We're the only two right on the beach. Politicians talk about waterfront development. We [referring to Sam Bova, owner of Sunset/Sam's] have been 'developing' for over 25 years. It's funny because back when we started, nobody cared about the water," says Alberts.

At Sunset Bay Beach Club, "waterfront development" is humming along. Last September, the old club was demolished. A new club was built over winter and opened this month.

Plans had been the works for a few years, as the number of repairs kept mounting on the weather-beaten building. The new club was built in the footprint of the old Sunset, but with a bigger patio.

"Our 2011 VIP card reads 'Sunthing Old, Sunthing New,' " says Bova. "We kept what worked and changed what we thought would make it better."

Bova also asked employees (what he calls his Sunset family) for input. Behind the scenes, ice machines, beer, liquor and supplies are more centralized for workers.

Customers will see a bright new building, decorative brickwork, sanded cement bar tops and more. Finishing touches, like special outdoor lights and some siding, are still being done but the beach club is open for business.

Was Bova sorry to see the old club go?

"Not at all," he says. "I wanted to keep the tradition but not the headaches of repairs. The new club is exactly what I envisioned."

While the club may look different, the summer beach vibe lives on.

"Going to the beach is a favorite American pastime," says Bova. "I just want to make a fun and enjoyable experience for my guests."

If you can't make it out to Mickey Rats/Captain Kidd's or Sunset Bay/Cabana Sam's, there are other fabulous places with outdoor spaces. Every day or night has something going on, and each of these places has its own je ne sais quoi -- the water, the people, the drinks, the music, the food -- the perfect recipe for a night (or day) of hot fun in the summertime.

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