SEATTLE (Reuters) – The naked truth is that in one Washington State city, it just got more difficult to serve coffee with a side of bare skin.
A jury in Yakima on Friday found the owner of the Dreamgirls Expresso stand guilty of violating the city’s indecent exposure ordinance for having one of her “bikini baristas” wear sheer shorts while serving up coffee.
Dreamgirls’ owner faces a term of up to 90 days in jail when she is sentenced on February 18. The case stems from a visit last year to the coffee stand by police officers, who found a barista’s sheer shorts did not cover enough of her buttocks.
In coffee crazed Washington State, shops with baristas in bikinis have been cropping up for the last three or four years, as some municipal officials have sought to control them after receiving complaints from residents.
Police in the city of Everett, Washington, in 2009 busted baristas in one coffee shop, and accused them of exchanging sexual favors for money.
But efforts by Everett and other Washington State municipal officials to control bikini barista shops through ordinances on what baristas can wear have run into hurdles over how to define what is decent attire.
Officials in Yakima, about 100 miles southeast of Seattle, said in their 2009 ordinance that publicly wearing G-strings and see-through clothing is forbidden. And they appear to have won this latest round with the jury verdict against Clark.
Yakima Mayor Micah Cawley said one coffee stand was featuring pole dancing for a time.
“We wanted to be very specific about what you could wear and couldn’t wear,” he said. “Hopefully, this will be this end of this chapter.”
Clark did not return calls seeking comment on the guilty verdict against her.
Yakima, with a metropolitan population of about 100,000 residents, has a half dozen bikini barista shops, said Randy Beehler, director of community relations for the city.
Kate Reardon, spokeswoman for the city of Everett, said the bikini barista wave that hit Washington State in recent years stems from efforts by coffee shop owners to stand out against the big chains in a hyper-competitive market where the industry leader Starbucks got its start.
“I think that it’s creative marketing that really grabbed some attention,” she said.
But Bob Phibbs, author of “The Retail Doctor’s Guide to Growing Your Business,” said the phenomenon could be short-lived and limited to Washington State, because the goal of a coffee shop is to generate turnover.
“Your money’s in professional people going to work. It’s not in people hanging out looking at naked bodies,” he said.
(Writing and reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Jerry Norton)
Mochila insert follows.