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I have an etiquette question [moved from Manhattan]

So I want to throw a surprise birthday party for my girlfriend at a bar/restaurant somewhere in Manhattan. I've never done anything like this before. Is it common to pick up the entire check? Or can I get away with maybe just paying for the food? I'm not a rich man. I'm not a poor man, but I'm not a rich man. (The party is going to be pretty small, like 15 ppl tops) How does this work? And if anyone has any recommendations for venues.

Nov 03, 2011
barney_clump in Not About Food