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After the attacks, ground zero acquired its own Manhattan-style exclusivity -- unless you were James Gandolfini (or Jacques Chirac), there was no chance of getting in. But at other exclusive downtown spots, making it past the doorman is no longer quite the challenge it used to be. With fewer A-listers going out -- and "United we stand" still the prevailing sentiment -- could the velvet rope finally be coming down?

At Suite 16, Wass, the notoriously harsh doorman, normally stands guard against any group of more than two guys. But on a recent Monday night, no fewer than 50 men (granted, firemen) were hurriedly escorted inside. On another occasion, says club director Noah Tepperberg, Mark Wahlberg came back from ground zero with a guest list of ten workers. "They walked right in," Wass says. "They were pretty underdressed. All these beautiful women were dumbstruck."

Even ordinary, unassisted citizens are finding it easier to make the scene -- thanks in part to newly enlightened club owners who seem to have discovered the virtues of democratic door policies. Shampu's Etienne Deyans says his new club, Tapis Rouge, will open with (more or less) open arms. "Now people want to go where they feel welcome," he says.

But other owners strike a more mercenary (and possibly more honest) note: "It's your reputation versus how many people have to come through the door so you can pay the rent," says Frank Cilione of the SoHo nightclub NV. And the problem is that there are fewer and fewer of the right kind of people. Promoter Danny A says that about half of his model clients have fled New York. At Lotus, home to his fashionista-heavy Tuesday-night party, the staff was informed that snooty attitudes would not be tolerated. "The owners told us to take care of people," says bartender Rich Cooper. "We have to make them think, 'The whole world is crashing down around me, but I still want to go to Lotus and get my drink on.'"


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