Sexy baristas in skimpy bikinis win court case, can serve coffee in uniforms city officials called lewd

After a five year legal battle, a city ordinance deemed to “target” bikini-clad baristas outside Seattle was ruled unconstitutional in U.S. District Court as the judge found “It is difficult to imagine how this Ordinance would be equally applied to men…”

(Video: Fox 13)

Jovanna Edge is the owner of XO Espresso and similar coffee stands in Everett, Washinton, offering their clientele beverages served up by scantily clad baristas. Since 2017, Edge has been in dispute with the city over ordinances on dress code and lewd conduct that U.S. District Court Judge Ricardo S. Martinez found were “passed in part to have an adverse impact” on her business and those like it.

In a 19-page ruling, Martinez wrote, “There is evidence in the record that the bikini barista profession, clearly a target of the Ordinance, is entirely or almost entirely female. It is difficult to imagine how this Ordinance would be equally applied to men and women in practice. It appears designed to ban not just ‘pasties and g-strings’ or bikinis, but a wide range of women’s clothing.”

Previously, U.S. District Court Judge Marsha Pechman had also ruled in favor of the bikini baristas on the grounds of the First and 14th Amendments, but in 2019 the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found in favor of the city saying, “We stress that plaintiffs deny that they engage in nude dancing and erotic performances, thereby disavowing the First Amendment protections available for that conduct.”

“The baristas working at these stands wear what they call ‘bikinis,’ but the City describes them as ‘nearly nude employees,’ and the district court made clear that their attire is significantly more revealing than a typical bikini,” the Ninth Circuit ruling continued. “The district court’s finding that at least some of the baristas wear little more than pasties and g-strings is well supported by the record.”

Martinez pushed back on the 2019 ruling and wrote, “The record shows this Ordinance was passed in part to have an adverse impact on female workers at bikini barista stands,” and, “Intermediate scrutiny is appropriate here.”

“The means by which the City is attempting to reduce crime and lewd conduct–a dress code for drive-thrus that bans midriffs and scoop back shirts–is so broad as to veer from being ‘substantially related’ to just ‘related,'” he added, before referring to expert testimony provided by the chair of the Psychology Department at Colorado College, Dr. Tomi-Ann Roberts.

“The Court is particularly swayed by Dr. Roberts’ observations that this Ordinance poses an unreasonable risk of demeaning enforcement,” Martinez wrote. “Assuming the owners of bikini barista stands are unable or unwilling to enforce this dress code, at some point law enforcement will be asked to measure exposure of skin by some method. This ‘encourage[s] a humiliating, intrusive, and demoralizing search on women, disempowering them and stripping them of their freedom.'”

In speaking with HeraldNet, a barista identified as Emma Dilemma said, “I think this protects our safety from law enforcement touching our body. Who’s approving my outfit? Is it my female boss or some random dude cop that I don’t know? I don’t want them having to stick a ruler next to my body.”

Another barista pointed out to Fox 13 that her employer does not tell her or her co-workers what to wear and they each chose their own level of comfort on the job as they work to support single-parent homes or pay their way through college.

Edge, who promised to keep fighting if the city continues the challenge, has already paid $1.8 million in legal fees. She told Fox, “I’m a firm believer in standing up for your constitutional rights; I completely felt this was wrong, and I completely felt it targeted women.”

Martinez ruled the plaintiff and city were to meet within 14 days to discuss steps moving forward.


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