Competition on ice in Vegas

The glass-walled vodka vault at Red Square has always gotten a lot of press coverage for the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. Now there's something else to be cool with.

It's the new Minus 5 lounge that opened this week adjacent to Mandalay Bay. It is one of a chain of such novelty drinking spots started by Craig Ling who also has two each in Australia and New Zealand, and one in Portugal. Ling said he plans to open ice lounges in New York, Miami, Los Angeles and Hawaii.

"The art of ice," as Ling calls it, is central to the theme of his bars. "We have our own ice carvers who change the lounge and sculptures every six to eight weeks." A life-sized ice statue of Elvis Presley was on display for opening day of the 2,000-square-foot place. A hunka-hunka not-burning love.

Ling apparently comes by his fascination with ice in an honest way. He is a great-grandson of Buck Rockwell, a 19th Century explorer and adventurer from New Zealand who endured a one-man expedition to circumnavigate the North Pole.

The lounge temperature, by the way, is kept at 23 degrees Farenheit; the -5 of the name actually is on the Celsius scale, so it's not as cold as one might think. Nevertheless, visitors are offered boots and parkas if they so desire. Kids are welcome, too, and the loung has a "mocktails" menu for them.

Minus 5 also has ice glasses from New Zealand, clear ice for various purposes from Canada, as well as ice couches for relaxing. Admission to the establishment is $30, which includes one cocktail and a parka, and reservations are recommended (702 / 632-7714).

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