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Can Everett, WA Ban Bikini Baristas?

By George Khoury, Esq. | Last updated on

A surprising new trend out of the Pacific Northwest involves bikini clad baristas serving coffee in drive-thru coffee stands.

The bikini baristas have taken social media by storm, and have received a surprisingly welcoming reception from almost everyone, except the cities that have been trying to regulate these businesses out of existence. And if you're not convinced that this is an important constitutional matter, just consider the level of analysis the attorney for the city of Everett provides when explaining what an "anal cleft" is to the Ninth Circuit panel of judges: "There is only one vertical opening made as if by splitting that could be associated with the anus on the human body."

What's This Case About?

If you guessed that this case is about cities trying to regulate food service employee safety (after all, serving coffee in a bikini seems pretty dangerous), you'd probably be wrong. The city of Everett passed an ordinance requiring the bikini baristas to cover up. Basically, the law requires a tank top and bottoms that cover at least the bottom half of a person's bottom. But that's only half the story.

The city also claims that the businesses are simply skirting the already existing laws for adult or erotic entertainment that wouldn't allow these to operate as they do now. However, the coffee stands assert that they are just serving coffee with a twist.

Messages and Symbolic Speech

The baristas argue that they are not engaged in erotic dance or erotic performance, but rather are excited to show off their bodies and beauty in order to brighten their customers' days. In short, the baristas claim First Amendment protection. The lower federal district court agreed, somewhat, finding the statute unconstitutionally vague in ordering an injunction prohibiting the city's enforcement of the law.

The city contends that the district court got the standard wrong, and that these bikini coffee stands have similar models to strip clubs with employees working for tips only, and that these businesses lead to increased criminal activity, such as lewd conduct and prostitution.

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