Thanks, Simba, for that marvellous photo of Humberto Primo 1462, where the Nino Bien milonga is held. It says it all, really, the neat formality of it, the tables lined up with a pathway behind them, the neatly arranged table cloths. Those table cloths might well be threadbare, even worn out, but they will be clean and freshly ironed. If the management knows you, you will be shown to one of the front-row tables, on the left of the photo if you are female, on the right for males: if you are a stranger you'll be in the second row. This formality is like a background: once the place fills up and people are dancing, eating and drinking it doesn't feel particularly formal. Then the cortina starts, the floor clears completely, and everyone awaits the next tanda, wondering what will play and whose eye they can catch, and you become aware again how formal it is. The smaller clubs feel less formal, but that formal structure is still there beneath the surface. This is confirmed by the host greeting you at the door: this isn't just an event you pay to enter.
& thanks for all the experience and advice on starting a milonga, which read like a love poem to the milongas of Buenos Aires, nostalgic because of the distance. I suspect that any milonga here will have to be a compromise, although perhaps the situation is beginning to change, with more people interested in tango. Perhaps it's becoming possible to host a more traditional milonga that covers its costs. But I think that one factor, table service of hot snacks, drink and coffee, which makes people happy to stay all night, is always going to be hard to manage here. Too bad. One day, I hope!