Bikini barista dress code ruled unconstitutional
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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