Hillybilly Hotties encourages female staff to serve up capucinnos while scantily clad in nothing but a bikini – fans call them the Hooters of the coffee world.
Male coffee fans seem largely delighted but confusing and bizarre new laws introduced by the city of Everett, Washington, this week include rulings that only ‘half a female breast may be exposed’ in a fast food restaurant and that no employee’s bare back should be seen.
But seven ‘bikini baristas’ and the owner of a chain of Hillbilly Hotties are suing the city saying the bare skin ban violates their right to free expression.
The suit, filed in US District Court in Seattle, says the ordinances passed by the Everett City Council deny bikini-stand employees the “ability to communicate through their attire, are vague and confusing, and unlawfully target women”.
The lawsuit says: “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” adding that such messages include “freedom, empowerment, openness, acceptance, approachability, vulnerability and individuality”.
The new law states workers are required to wear a minimum of tank tops and shorts and specifically applies to employees at “quick service” restaurants.
City lawmakers claimed the change to the law was triggered by “a proliferation of crimes of a sexual nature occurring at bikini barista stands throughout the city.”
The proprietor of another chain, the Grab-N-Go espresso huts, was convicted of sexual exploitation of a minor after he employed a 16-year-old girl at his stands. Prosecutors said his business model relied on the baristas performing lewd shows.
But Jovanna Edge, who runs five Hillbilly Hotties stands, including two in Everett, said the city’s new laws were unnecessary.
A few years ago, she said, she gave Everett police permission to log in and view surveillance video of her stands so they can observe what’s happening in real time.
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.”
But she added since the laws were introduced many staffhad threatened to quit.
The lawsuit claims the new leglslation’s definitions of what skin must be covered up is confusing.
The dress code for baristas refers to the “upper and lower body,” stomach, and back below the shoulder blades, among other areas.
The statute says: “The length of a common woman’s shirt is often short enough that stretching or bending would reveal part of her back or stomach.”
Another measure bans “an exposure of more than one-half of the part of the female breast located below the top of the areola.”
But the Bikini Baristas counter-claim states: “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.”
A spokeswoman said the city had no comment on the lawsuit.