The great bottle bill battle was over last week -- a contrast to the very end.

As corporate interests -- which poured millions into the fight against Initiative 28 -- savored their 55 to 45 percent Election Day victory at the Sheraton Grand Hotel, a disappointed but not dispirited group of citizen activists who had been far outspent soaked up beer and wine at an American Legion hall on the other side of Capitol Hill.

At the Sheraton, officials of the Clean Capital City Committee, the industry-financed campaign organization, set up three bars and a spread of cheese and vegetables for about 60 corporate executives, campaign officials and a group of young people who had been paid $100 each to be poll workers.

"Will they give out bonuses? Will there be precinct bonuses?" shouted Brian Cook, one of dozens of precinct workers. His comment was an unsettling reminder that the industry committee had so much money that many volunteers started asking to be paid.

At the Nash American Legion Hall, 224 D St. SE, bottle bill supporters brought homemade snacks as one overworked beer keg kept a long line waiting. Sodas and jug wine also were served against a backdrop of several hundred people who shouted encouragement to one another as television newscasters reported their effort going down to defeat.

Back at the Sheraton, John N. Downs, chairman of the industry committee and vice president for public affairs for the Mid-Atlantic Coca-Cola Bottling Co., declared victory at 11:30 p.m.

"We worked long and hard for the victory," Downs said. "I want to compliment the citizens of Washington, D.C., for making the right choice today." Downs said his group is committed to getting a cleaner city and wants to fashion a "comprehensive solution" to litter problems. The industry group contended that the bottle bill would have been too costly and caused inconvenience to consumers and that it did not fully address the city's litter problems.

The Clean Capital City Committee outspent the bottle bill proponents by 20 to 1, a campaign budget that far exceeded the $1.2 million spent by Mayor Marion Barry in his reelection campaign last year.

Late into the night, Jonathan Puth, director of the Bottle Bill Initiative Campaign, conceded defeat, harshly attacking the industry for its spending.

"The word is, we challenge the industry to spend $2 million to get their materials out of the dumps. We challenge the industry to spend their money on {doing} something about the throwaway ethic. If they don't, the bottle bill will be back year after year. D.C. saw a fantastic effort. Forty-five percent is a fantastic amount against $2 million."

Puth said the industry's plan to target voters worked. "They got what they could buy, but it was ugly. They spread some vicious lies at the polls -- claiming fears of AIDS, that homes would be lost."Getting the Word Out

Watch for announcement soon of a speakers bureau to be formed in the mayor's office. Mayor Barry, who frequently complains that the news media don't do enough reporting about the good things his administration accomplishes, is putting together "D.C. Speaks." The speakers bureau will include members of his Cabinet. Dollars for Democrats

Blocked in the D.C. Council, Democratic Party regulars in Washington may go to the people in an effort to solve their perennial money problems.

Legislation that would allow city taxpayers to check off a $1 contribution to the political party of choice -- most city voters are Democrats -- died in committee with little support months ago. The state committee is considering whether to gather signatures to place the issue on the ballot, although it also is considering whether to ask the council to approve a nonbinding advisory referendum that would not require petition signatures.

But the issue has far from unanimous support even among the Democrats, with critics saying taxpayers should not bail out a local party that has trouble raising money. Critics also point out that it is inappropriate to compare the checkoff to federal tax returns for presidential campaigns. That money goes to funding candidates for public office while the local party would be free to spend the money any way it wanted. The often fractious local party already fights about many things; a windfall pot of money -- if it materialized -- could prove a real battleground. Staff writer Eric Pianin contributed to this report.