Washington state is known as the birthplace of the bikini barista— female coffee servers who wear tiny bathing suits, pasties or sometimes no tops at all.
But now, after a series of mounting complaints, Everett, Wash. is considering a city ordinance that would require the nearly-naked servers to wear more conservative clothing.
According to Washington’s Q13 Fox News, there are fewer than half a dozen barista stands in the town of just over 100,000. However, the city says that they’re “draining a lot of resources investigating complaints” and may be hotbeds for some illegal activity.
“We know criminal activity isn’t happening at every barista stand, but our experience has been this type of business model does tend to allow for that criminal activity,” City of Everett spokeswoman Meghan Pembroke told Q13.
In Washington state, it’s legal for women to be topless in public, which has sparked a mini movement behind these so called bikini-barista shops. In Arizona, where the laws are stricter but the weather is warmer, they have Bikini Beans, a company started by Ben Lyles and his wife, which now has two locations.
“We stand for so much more than a girl in a bikini,” Lyles told Fox News via email in March. “It's empowering for our baristas to wear a bikini, feel comfortable in their own skin, embrace that, and have a choice to do something they enjoy and love."
He continued, “Our internal mission statement allows us the ability to block out the haters and remain true to who we are and what we stand for.”
And taking away a servers' right to dress however she pleases will likely mean a lot less money coming in, a woman working at Hillbilly Hotties stand said.
“It would be less profitable,” the server, who introduced herself as Kat, told Q13. If the ordinance passes, the coffee server says she’ll likely move to another city to find work.
This isn’t the first time topless baristas in the state of Washington have faced opposition.
In January 2016, Spokane City Councilman Mike Fagan supported several efforts to crack down on the nearly naked operations including an ordinance that would have required the coffee stands to post signage that would warn the public about what the servers were wearing, as well as require any employees to stay inside the huts—rather than stand outside waving signs or offering freebies to potential customers on the street.
Previously, Q13 News cameras captured at least one bikini barista “selling a strip show instead of coffee and some have been investigated for prostitution in the past.”
Other longtime detractors of the coffee shops are just happy they won’t have to worry about what their kids might see driving past one of the public businesses.
If passed, the new city ordinance—which is expected to be introduced this spring-- would mandate that baristas wear considerably more clothing and be required to wear tank tops and clothing that cover up bare bottoms.
Not only would servers be required to adhere to the new dress code but shops caught violating the rules would face serious fines. Owners wishing to keep their barely-there dress codes will have to apply for adult entertainment licenses (similar to what strip clubs need but those reportedly come with “a lot of hurdles and restrictions on where they can set up shop.”)
The Everett city council is expected to hold three public hearings before the final vote. If the ordinance passes, it would go into effect in just 90 days.