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serving rip-off drinks and a side of narcissism

Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

If you are a man who has failed in an attempt to launch a vodka brand, done the same with a line of steaks, and bankrupted several casinos and hotels, leaning further into the hospitality business might not seem the savviest move.

Related: Voters move to block Trump ally Madison Cawthorn from re-election

But that’s exactly what Donald Trump, never one to listen to his haters, or to his advisers, has done, in opening a new bar in his eponymous midtown Manhattan tower.

The bar, named 45 Wine and Whiskey, in a nod to Trump having served as the 45th president, promises handcrafted cocktails in “the most exclusive setting”. Opened in late November, it serves a range of president-themed drinks and is, according to the marketing material, a place to “relax and unwind”.

That may have been the intention, but a recent visit by the Guardian revealed that 45 Wine and Whiskey mainly serves as an ode to narcissism, or as a world record attempt to cram the most black-and-white photos of one man into quite a small space.

Behind the bar alone there are 15 gold-framed photos of Trump, whose penthouse apartment lurks 50 stories above. A giant picture of Trump sitting behind his presidential desk dominates the seating area.

In total, there are 39 photos of the former US president in the bar, suggesting this may be a venue for people who are fond of the former Apprentice host.

There’s a shot of Trump, the first president to be impeached twice, meeting the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in the Korean demilitarized zone, while another photo shows Trump and Melania flanking an uninterested-looking Queen Elizabeth. One picture, a strange choice, shows Trump holding up a copy of the Washington Post with the headline: “Trump acquitted.”

There are other things to look at. From the wooden bar-top a patron can take in the peach marble walls and plentiful golden banisters that mark Trump Tower as one of the leading homages to 1980s opulence. It’s part of a decor theme dubbed “dictator style” by the fashion writer Peter York.

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Given that 45 Wine and Whiskey replaces the “Trump bar” that previously occupied the same spot, it isn’t exactly a new venture. And much like its predecessor, 45 Wine and Whiskey boasts red velvet seating, marble tables and gold flourishes, in keeping with the rest of the building. The seating area scans out across the lobby, over to the famous gold-effect escalator that spewed Trump on to the political stage in 2015.

The drinks follow the grandiose theme – at least in terms of the pricing, which is extortionate. The Forty Five – a whiskey with syrup and bitters, served with two small hamburgers and, bizarrely, a Diet Coke – is $45. The Flotus – a potent white wine and gin ensemble that could hint at Melania’s lack of activity while in the White House – is $29.

The Forty Five – a whiskey with syrup and bitters, with two small burgers and, bizarrely, a Diet Coke – is $45

The Mar-a-Lago spritzer, named after the Florida resort where Trump has been holed up since he left office, is a grift almost on a par with Trump University. The drink consists of white wine, soda water, and grapefruit juice. It is served with an orange wedge, and costs $29.

The pricing might explain the fact that during a recent hour-long afternoon visit, the Guardian was the only customer – although it doesn’t explain the laissez-faire opening hours.

According to the website, the bar is open from noon to 8pm, but at 1.50pm one day recently there was a red velvet rope guarding the entry, and no signs of life. After leaving Trump Tower and returning at 3pm, the bar was still closed; it was only at 3.45pm, during a third visit, that access was gained.

Hopefully for the beleaguered former president, his well-wishers will visit the bar at more suitable hours. But some of his vaccine-skeptical supporters will face a major obstacle, in the form of a big blue sign at the bar’s entrance.

“New York City requires you to be vaccinated against Covid-19 to enter this business,” it says. “Those five and older must show proof of Covid-19 vaccination.”

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