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A touch of blarney in Mexico

Free trade, foreign travelers and a new generation spark eclectic bar scene in the Mexican capital.

Another attraction of the European-style joints is the informality. While many traditional Mexican nightspots seat clients at tables to be attended by waiters, the new wave of pubs invite clients to drink and mingle.

“It is a much better atmosphere when you are not pinned down,” said 26-year-old Karina Aguilera, dancing with an ale on a Saturday night. “You can meet people more easily and have a better night out.”

Working as a graphic designer, Aguilera is typical of the crowd that fills out the new bars. With beers costing $3 and upward, the spots are expensive for working class Mexicans. But many young professionals such as architects, computer specialists and media workers have disposable income to spend on their Saturday nightlife.

Many of the bars have opened in the Condesa, a central neighborhood built around an oval race track that used to be used for horse contests.

First populated by thousands of Spaniards who fled their country’s civil war in the 1930s, it has since welcomed waves of more immigrants from Europe as well as bohemian Mexican actors and artists.

Its central streets are now rammed with bars, pubs, restaurants, cafes and pool halls, fighting for customers with their variety of smells and sounds.

However, some of the old-time Condesa revelers feel that the whole European bar scene has become a little too successful.

With crowds frothing through swing doors, big business owners have latched onto the opportunity. More recently, several big-name chains such as the Seattle-based Starbucks and Mexican nightclub chain Don Quintin have opened up alongside the Euro-pubs.

Some merry-makers such as writer Alejandro Bernal, 35, say it is time to look elsewhere for the alternative touch.

“The whole scene used to be something really different, quite exotic here in Mexico City,” Bernal says, eying a queue of cars waiting for parking spaces outside a packed bar. “Now it has become a bit too commercial. It has lost its edge.”