Oct 21, 2022 - News

Bikini barista dress code ruled unconstitutional

A woman looks over her shoulder while wearing not much clothing, near an espresso machine and syrup bottles.

Hillbilly Hottie bikini barista Jordan Pearl. Photo courtesy of Schuyler Lifschultz

Bikini baristas in Everett can wear G-strings, pasties, and even show a bit of "anal cleft" if they choose, now that a federal court has struck down a five-year-old dress code.

Driving the news: U.S. District Court Judge Ricardo Martinez ruled this week that a city ordinance banning scanty clothing in drive-thru coffee stands violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment.

  • The ruling said Everett's ordinance unlawfully targets the clothing of women and not men.

What they're saying: "This Ordinance clearly treats women differently than men by banning a wide variety of women's clothing, not just pasties and g-strings, or bikinis," Martinez wrote. "The restrictions are so detailed they effectively prescribe the clothes to be worn by women in quick service facilities."

State of play: The legal brouhaha began in 2017 when Everett City Council members unanimously passed two ordinances expanding the definition of lewd conduct, fining coffee stand owners for violations, and establishing a dress code for the baristas.

  • Lawyers for the city of Everett said it was an effort to staunch alleged "sexual crimes" sparked by the bikini barista business model.
  • The city's previous efforts to curb activity at drive-thru coffee stands — in which undercover police officers videotaped unsuspecting baristas engaging in what the city described as "sexually explicit" and "vulgar" acts — led to hundreds of public records requests for the surveillance videos, including one from an incarcerated sex offender.
  • Some phrases and images used by the city to write, describe or clarify the law (especially the use of the phrase "anal cleft") became national joke fodder.

Of note: The case has been heard twice in U.S. district court and once by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Between the lines: The U.S. district court did not rule against the city's ordinance that created a new crime of "facilitating lewd conduct" and expanded the definition of a "lewd act."

  • The court was also unswayed by the baristas' argument that the dress code infringed on their First Amendment right to express — through their clothing or lack thereof — messages about "female empowerment, positive body image, freedom of choice, and personal and political viewpoints."

What's next: The court has directed the two parties to meet and confer within 14 days of this order regarding how to proceed.

  • Schuyler Lifschultz, a co-owner of Hillbilly Hotties, which — along with several individual baristas — filed the suit against Everett, said he would like to see the case go back to the appeals court so the ruling can be affirmed.
  • Everett spokesperson Julio Cortes said the city will be assessing the court's decision before deciding how to move forward.

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