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Pasty patrol: Bikini baristas spark code amendment in Federal Way
Federal Way is considering amending city code to limit the amount of skin bikini baristas, and other individuals, can publicly display.
The Parks, Recreation, Human Services and Public Safety city council subcommittee proposed an amendment Tuesday to the Public Morals code that specifically defines lewd public conduct and addresses behaviors such as indecent exposure. The measure is needed to eliminate gray areas in the code, deputy police chief Andy Hwang said. It's also a proactive measure needed to establish acceptable attire for bikini baristas in Federal Way.
"This is in response, to address, a new trend of bikini barista businesses," Hwang said.
The city's first such business, Pink Spot Cafe, began operating a few months ago at 27525 Pacific Highway S. The business is not violating code has not generated complaints, Hwang said.
If approved, the amendment will classify indecent exposure as a misdemeanor offense. It will prohibit a person from intentionally exposing any part of the genitals or pubic area, parts of the buttocks, the areola, nipple, or more than half of the breast area located below the top of the areola in public. Streets, sidewalks, driveways, parking lots, automobiles (whether moving or not) and businesses open to the public, including those containing a drive-through window, are considered public places.
The amendment would address risque attire, such as pasties, associated with bikini baristas. Body paint or dye, tattoos, latex, tape or similar substances applied to the skin to mask any of the above anatomical areas will not be permitted in public. Substances that can be washed off the skin and those designed to stimulate the regions would be banned as well.
"It really addresses the attire a bikini barista would wear," Hwang said.
The Pink Spot Cafe, a subsidiary of Cowgirls Espresso, is Federal Way's only bikini barista business. It sits back from Pacific Highway South, with the drive-through window visible to northbound traffic. On a recent visit, barista Rae Wall, 22, of Tacoma, showed off her physique in a black solid bra with lace around the back, and a black and leopard print mini-skirt with fringe at its hemline. Wall has been a Cowgirls employee for approximately 18 months. The company is a "little bit classier" than its competitors, she said.
Pink Spot employees are held to strict policies on attire, said owner Lori Bowden of Kent. Employees are not permitted to wear thongs or anything that shows the underside of their breasts or "anal cleavage," Wall said. The women must wear clothing covering the top of their areola to the bottom of their breasts, Bowden said. Pasties are worn, but only when they are paired with other pieces of clothing, such as mesh tops, or when there is a chance the women could accidentally show too much while performing their job duties, she said.
"We're not selling sex," Bowden said. "We're selling entertainment."
Bowden is not worried about Federal Way's proposed code amendment. She supports codes that restrict how much skin baristas can show.
"I'm usually the one saying go for it, pass a law. I'll vote for it," Bowden said.
Though the code amendment is being considered in direct relation to underdressed bikini baristas, it would prohibit other lewd acts as well. Any person who touches, caresses or fondles the genitals or female breast, whether clothed or not, will be committing a lewd act. Masturbation and engaging in sexual conduct or contact would also be prohibited.
The Public Morals code (Chapter 6.45) already bans other lewd acts. Other forms of indecent exposure, prostitution, patronizing a prostitute, sexual exploitation of children, minor access to erotic materials, urinating in public, obscenity and pornography are not allowed in Federal Way.
Exceptions to the code are allowed. They include, among other things, breast feeding, dramatic works and conduct in places like locker rooms, where nudity is necessary or customary outside the home.
The city council will discuss the proposed amendment 7 p.m. Sept. 21 at City Hall, 33325 8th Ave. S.
Check it out: Local headlines
Federal Way is not the only jurisdiction concerned about what bikini baristas are wearing — or not wearing. In recent years, bikini baristas have made news across the region.
• South Hill: A 19-year-old female was arrested and charged for indecent exposure in October 2009 outside the Bikini Bottom Espresso stand. A passerby saw the woman standing outside, wearing bikini bottoms and small pieces of black tape over her nipples. She reported the incident to the Pierce County Sheriff's Department. The woman's outfit was part of the Bikini Bottom's "pasty Wednesday."
• Everett: In 2009, five bikini baristas were charged with prostitution and violating the city's adult entertainment ordinance. Undercover police witnessed the baristas charge customers up to $80 to see the baristas flash their breasts, expose their crotches, lick whipped cream off their co-workers' genital areas and pose naked for pictures inside the Grab-n-Go Espresso stand. Detectives also witnessed some of the women charging customers to touch their bare breasts and buttocks.
• Bonney Lake: Peek-A-Brew Espresso uses six live webcams inside the shop to bring in revenue. A $3.99 subscription to brewistas.com lets individuals watch as the bikini baristas greet customers, make drinks and clean their stand. More than 600 people registered during a free-access promotion in February.
• Snohomish County: In December 2009, the county passed two ordinances to regulate bikini barista stands. One ordinance holds the barista and her employer accountable for lewd acts committed on the job. The other ordinance demands bikini barista stands obtain an adult entertainment license.
• Sumner: Despite the lack of bikini barista stands in Sumner, the city passed a lewd conduct ordinance in April that makes a citation an appropriate response to individuals showing too much skin in public.