The recent incident outside China Cowboy involving a valet and a dinner guest's vehicle raised some interesting questions about liability, propriety and whether the valet was someone you'd normally allow to drive anything that cost $16,000.

When we arrived at the restaurant we noted that the valet setup was less than ideal; six cars were lined up in a through-traffic lane on Colfax, almost blocking a nearby bus stop. We joined the line and sat there for nearly ten minutes, watching as a bus was forced to park diagonally--occupying two lanes during weeknight rush hour--so that its riders didn't have to disembark into traffic.

We finally turned over custody of the car and got on with our meal. But when dessert arrived, so did the request that one of our party go to the lobby, where he was greeted by two police officers who informed him there'd been an accident inolving his Wagoneer. They also told him that two other officers had searched his glove compartment in order to find his proof of insurance--a piece of information the guest had trouble swallowing. Was that necessary when the accident would surely be covered by the valet company? Normally the company pays, agrees Mike Mills, president of RPM Valet Company. In this case, though, a computer glitch made it appear that the eighteen-year-old valet was driving with a suspended license and no insurance; he had paid a $372 Utah speeding ticket, but record of the payment had not yet reached Denver, and the officers just wanted to make sure that someone had insurance. The valet also looked through the glove box in order to give the diner "personalized service," Mills explains, so they didn't have to page the car's owner.

Issues of insurance and searches aside, the crucial point for me was that the kid didn't know he was moving cars across a two-way street. I realize the Capitol area can be confusing. Even so, I'd make damn sure the driver knew the streets before I put him behind the wheel of someone's car.

Slainte: Guinness Stout is my favorite nonwine beverage of all time, so I'm raising a glass for the Great Guinness Toast, scheduled for 9:30 p.m. February 25 at more than fifty Denver area bars and restaurants. Participants will share a simultaneous toast while linked up via radio with five other cities: Seattle, Columbus, Providence, Charleston and Tampa. Yeah, I know, it's just a massive public-relations ploy, but I can't fault anything that involves Guinness. Peter Walsh, a Guinness/Irish-pub expert from Dublin, will be in Denver on the great day; I intend to grill him on why Guinness draft never tastes the same here as it does in Ireland, where I had the stuff for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Watch this space for the answer.

An almost-answer: The neighborhood won the round last week after the Department of Excise and Licenses denied a liquor-license renewal for Pic's Corner Bar on West 32nd Avenue. The bar has until February 25 to file an appeal; then there could be a twenty-day waiting period before this thing is finally over.