Though the exact story is still being questioned, many agree that during a hot summer in the early 1990s, a roadside coffee outlet in Washington state started a Bikini Wednesday promotion.

Noticing a giant leap in its sales, the owner knew he was on to something and so others quickly followed suit.

Shock, men love women in bikinis. I know. Who would have thought…..

Fast forward to 2018 and they are in multiple US states, including Oregon, Idaho and North Carolina.

But they also draw complaints. Last year the city of Everett, Washington, tried to get rid of the stands.

The city council introduced a dress code law which basically required baristas to cover “minimum body areas” (more specifically the top three inches of legs below the buttocks, the torso and the breasts).

Knowing that his business model was in danger, the owner of a chain called Hillbilly Hotties (joined by seven of its staff) sued the city stating that the ban violated both their first amendment free speech and expression rights.

Then December of last year, US District Court Judge Marsha Pechman heard both sides’ arguments and ruled that the girls could indeed continue to operate as before, stating that the city’s attempt to impose a dress code on the baristas was vague and violated the 14th Amendment as it particularly targeted women.

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Moreover, she agreed that the ordinances likely dishonored the First Amendment protections of freedom of expression, just as the plaintiffs had requested.

So the girls can continue, for now, as the city prepares for a new legal attack.

Starbucks, headquartered in Seattle, or any of the city’s hundreds of independent coffee shops for that matter, can’t compete with what the girls can make as ‘bikini baristas’ and so are keen to shut them down.

As ‘bikini baristas, they get up to $100 a day in tips, on top of the hourly Washington state minimum wage of $11.50, hence it is understandable that the ladies are keen on keeping their jobs on (and most of their clothes off).

From an Everett local paper:

Clothing can be linked to free speech, such as the pink knit hats that became popular with protesters after the 2016 presidential election, Pechman said. The public’s ideas around decency aren’t static, she said.

“The mores change,” she said. “Why does the city of Everett want to change what the mores are?”

Yet the judge also didn’t seem to accept wholesale the plaintiffs’ claims they primarily are focused on art and expression. If that were so, the baristas wouldn’t mind if tips were outlawed, she said, asking, “Is it the message or the money?”

In addition, the judge questioned whether the city’s ordinances are too vague. Some of the terms used to describe body parts aren’t in the dictionary, and a diagram might be needed to determine compliance, she said.

Derek Newman, an attorney representing the baristas, agreed.

“It’s not always clear where a breast begins and ends,” he said.

Everett has turned to civil measures to target misbehavior by baristas and customers because the criminal investigations exhaust police resources, said Sarah Johnson, an attorney hired by the city.

A  bikini hut is the drive-thru version of a strip club, she said. The women are isolated, nearly naked and motivated to maximize their income, she said.

“The attire here is the same …,” she said. “Changing the clothing will eliminate that conduct.”

“I don’t see any similarity,” Newman said.

About a half-dozen baristas attended Tuesday’s hearing, including Amelia Powell, who told reporters the job is a better option for women than being a dancer or an escort. The pay has allowed her to work fewer hours and to improve her grades, she said.

“It comes down to the issue of economic opportunity,” she said.

The judge’s order is expected to say whether Everett can enforce the rules for the time being. Future hearings are likely for other contested issues in the case.

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Guess we will have to wait and see.

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