CHRISTMAS is the best of times and the worst of times for Hong Kong's pubs and clubs. While many residents, especially expatriates, flee town for a family festive season in their home countries, those who remain behind are usually in the mood to party hearty. According to most managers of bars and clubs, numbers often drop off during the week between Christmas and New Year. But a celebratory mood prevails among those who stay in Hong Kong for Christmas, which means the people who are out and about are certainly looking for a good time. Jacqueline Sit, in charge of public relations and marketing for Nichole Garnaut's Lan Kwai Fong-based 97 Group, said all the company's establishments were gearing up for a big Christmas. 'We're still putting the finishing touches on our theme nights for Club 97 and Post 97,' she said. 'Christmas falls on a Friday this year, so both Christmas Eve and Christmas night, and even Boxing Day, should be big nights. 'Last year, we ran a 'Bedroom Fantasies' theme night on Christmas Eve at Post 97. It will not be the same theme this year, but we are planning towards something special.' Meanwhile, it will be thumping and pumping tunes in Club 97, where resident DJ Joel Lai and his select group of spin- meisters play the latest in funky house music for club-goers. Sit said that the club's regular Thursday night acid-jazz fest, Cosa Nostra, would probably be put on hold to make way for a special Christmas Eve party. 'Again, we're still in the planning stages, but we'll probably have something a bit more upbeat. Cosa Nostra has been a big success, but it's a very mellow night.' The group's trendy bars - Petticoat Lane, just off Lyndhurst Terrace, and La Dolce Vita in Lan Kwai Fong - will be open for business as usual. For a cosy Christmas Eve, it will be hard to beat Time After Time in Jaffe Road. Manager Philip Murphy said he was expecting a big Christmas Eve turnout from regulars keen to see Christmas in with a bang. 'I'd say we'll be open late for a big night on Christmas Eve but we'll probably be closed on Christmas Day,' he said. Time After Time's sister bar in Lan Kwai Fong, Le Jardin, is still confirming the line-up, but plans to host a Christmas Eve party in its open-air setting with up-coming local DJs, including Jean-Paul Oliver. For those who want to dance the day away, Neptune 1's weekend madness will continue through Christmas, with DJ Christian taking the stage, kicking off at 3am on Friday and 5am on Saturday. Christian, who is now also resident DJ for Channel V and is hosting monthly dance parties for the music video channel around Asia, might also play on Christmas Eve, although this is yet to be confirmed. Further down Lockhart Road, on the border of Wan Chai and Causeway Bay, Club Star is planning plenty of booty-shaking festive fun for dance music fans. Club spokesman Stuart Wason said the deal was still in the process of being sealed, but punters could look forward to a selection of big-name DJs for a special party sponsored by 'one of the major beer companies'. 'We're still ironing out the details,' Mr Wason said. 'But it will be rocking, that's for sure.' John Hamill, general manager of The Jump, in Causeway Bay, said the bar and eatery would be putting on special Christmas set menus. 'We find we're usually pretty packed with party-goers on Christmas Eve,' he said. 'We get a lot of office parties and that usually spills over into a big night at the bar and on the dance floor. It's usually a pretty good time for us, although it quietens down a bit after Christmas Day.' At CE Top, manager Wah Lam said the Lyndhurst Terrace club would be hosting a special Christmas Eve bash on its ninth floor and rooftop premises, with a selection of local DJs. 'It's definitely party time,' Mr Lam said. 'We're expecting a very good night.' Club-goers should rug up though, if they are intending to venture up to CE Top, as it could be chilly on the roof. Joe Bananas in Wan Chai is always busy over Christmas and manager Ken Wathall said this year should be no exception. 'We get the big office parties and that sort of thing. It will be a big night as always.' Back at Lan Kwai Fong, the Milk Bar will be celebrating with its in-house DJ Edwin. Its downstairs cousin, Gig, will have set menus of festive fare and the usual selection of live local bands. One level down again, at TriBeCa, a range of local DJs, including David Lam and Edwin, will be creating the party mood right through Christmas from 10 o'clock each evening. BBs marketing manager Jeanette Skelton said the popular Wan Chai bar would be open every day through Christmas, with a special set menu. At The Manhattan, in the New World Harbour View Hotel, marketing manager Christina Chang said Christmas Eve would feature a ladies night where $200 entry for women would get them free standard drinks all night. A lucky draw will include prizes of a trip to Cebu for two and products from Emporio Armani. Oscars group operations manager David Laris said the Causeway Bay premises would have two special set menus - 'traditional fare, but with a modern twist' - while the bar in Lan Kwai Fong would feature special champagne deals.