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The hotel bar isn't what it used to be. Well, it's not what it used to be maybe a decade ago, but it is more likely to be what it was nearly a century ago.

"Bars were previously a holding space," said Emily Wines, the master sommelier and senior director of beverage programs at Kimpton Hotels. "We've had a shift in how we look at our bars."

Boutique hotels and even many of the big chains have invested in their bars as a way to stand out and bring in more travelers as well as locals.

"Now that the economy is coming around, people are spending more on drinking as opposed to just drinking free wine at wine hour. They're coming and drinking, they're entertaining, they're coming in with a group," Wines said. "I would say it started to pick up about two years ago and within the last year we're seeing more momentum, spending more across the board at our hotels, restaurants, weddings."

While the trend has been slowly building, hotel operators are very optimistic this will be a very good year for their bars.

A December report by the consulting firm Technomic showed hotel operators forecast 4.4 percent growth in their food and beverage sales in 2014. "Of the segments we track, hotel operators are among the most optimistic," said Donna Hood Crecca, the senior director for the adult beverage resource group at Technomic.