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Want legs with your coffee?

In Santiago, unusual coffee establishments that showcase scantily clad women are cropping up.

SANTIAGO — There was no scent of coffee — or even a coffee cup in sight. Although, strictly speaking, the darkness made it hard to see much of anything besides the fluorescent bands of white that didn’t quite cover the waitresses’ bodies. Music blasted from speakers.

Welcome to Cafe Montana, one of the dozens of “cafe con pierna” (coffee with legs) establishments that have popped up all over the Chilean capital in the past decade. There's a consistency to the businesses, which are typically open during normal office hours: Male clients are greeted with a kiss on the cheek by young semi-nude waitresses behind the counter, clad in tiny strands of cloth pretending to be bikinis. Sometimes the only thing covering a breast is a dab of whipped cream. And, of course, there's coffee to be had.

At Cafe Montana, which is located in a city area full of auto repair shops and coffee-thirsty workers and mechanics, customers stand at a seatless counter raised on platforms — a set-up that gives clients a better peek when waitresses bend over, and which gives them better access to their waists, breasts and bottoms.

Recently, in the middle of the day, all but one of the young, exuberant waitresses were sitting on top of the coffee counter, chatting while they waited for clients. Meanwhile, the manager was tying up the back of the glowing white string bikini on one of his employees. The only busy waitress was leaning over the counter, muffling a middle-aged client with her almost bare breasts. He had drifted in on his lunch break.

The waitresses act as part psychologist, part lover. While listening to their clients' problems, they flirt and let themselves be caressed. The coffee is an afterthought.

The exchanges don't always end with a morning caress over a good cup of coffee. Often, there are subtle sexual negotiations taking place that may last several visits to the cafe. Clients strike up conversations with their servers, while they flirt and touch. They may leave a high tip to signal their intentions and return another day, this time with gifts or an invitation to go out.

This is not love, mind you. “These are not direct or immediate sex negotiations," says Enrique Lagos, until recently a regular client of these cafes. "It all depends on the woman — she selects the client and decides how far she wants to go with him. Sex is paid with gifts, money, dinners, jewelry, or whatever. I have seen sex paid with stoves and heaters."

It wasn’t always like this, and not all establishments are alike.