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Seven bikini baristas and the owner of a chain of the coffee stands called “Hillbilly Hotties” are suing a US city, saying new laws banning bare skin violate their right to free expression.
The suit, filed in US District Court in Seattle, says the ordinances passed by the Everett City Council in Washington State deny bikini-stand employees the ability to communicate through their attire, are vague and confusing, and unlawfully target women.
The lawsuit claims: “Just like Starbucks with green aprons, UPS with brown trucks and outfits, and Hooter’s with short-orange shorts, the baristas’ attire evokes a message at work.”
One of Everett’s new laws requires the workers to wear a minimum of tank tops and shorts and specifically applies to employees at “quick service” restaurants.
The city cited “a proliferation of crimes of a sexual nature occurring at bikini barista stands throughout the city” in adopting the measures.
“Employees and owners of barista stands where this conduct occurs are making large sums of money from overtly sexual, lewd conduct, and prostitution,” the city declared in one of the measures.
Everett and Snohomish County, located north of Seattle, have had a troubled history with coffee stands, which in some cases have operated as drive-through strip clubs or even brothels.
But Jovanna Edge, who runs five Hillbilly Hotties stands, said the city’s new laws are unnecessary.
She said: “I don’t want to hide anything from them. Everybody needs to follow the rules, to not step out of the box and take their clothes off for people. That’s a way to keep them honest.”
Since the laws took effect, she added: “I have people who are threatening to quit because they’re not making any money.”
Among the allegations in the lawsuit is that the laws’ definitions of what skin must be covered up are confusing. The dress code for baristas refers to the “upper and lower body,” stomach, and back below the shoulder blades, among other areas.
“The length of a common woman’s shirt is often short enough that stretching or bending would reveal part of her back or stomach,” the lawsuit says.
The other measure bans “an exposure of more than one-half of the part of the female breast located below the top of the areola.”
“To properly enforce the citywide ordinance, a police officer must determine the location of the ‘top of a woman’s areola,’ which can only be seen by exposing the breast,” the complaint says. “This would subject women to humiliating and offensive searches.”
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