The Spokane Valley City Council seemed pleased Tuesday with a proposed ordinance crafted to address topless baristas at a coffee shop just two doors down from City Hall. The council received several hours of complaints earlier this month from people offended by baristas wearing only g-strings and pasties on some days.
The ordinance stipulates that at least half of a woman’s breast must be hidden with a “full and opaque covering.” Body paint and liquid latex do not count as a covering. Violation of the ordinance would be a misdemeanor offense punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Councilman Arne Woodard said the new law addresses his concern that other businesses might try the topless business model. “This could have spread to other things,” he said.
The ordinance also includes exceptions for breastfeeding mothers, art or science classes, shower rooms at fitness facilities and medical offices. “Obviously we don’t want to make anything to do with medical procedures affected,” said City Attorney Cary Driskell.
“I think it fits the needs of our city,” said councilman Chuck Hafner.
Tuesday’s council meeting was a study session, so no public comment was taken. The council agreed unanimously to move the ordinance forward to a first reading, at which time public comment will be allowed.
In other business, the council got its first look at the funding recommendations from the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee. No one voiced objections over the recipients or amounts recommended, but there was some discussion clarifying the council’s role under new state laws that take away their ability to override the committee’s recommendations.
Hafner pointed to the recommended award of $247,000 to Visit Spokane. “We can’t change that amount, is that right?” he said.
“It’s either $247,000 or zero,” said Finance Director Mark Calhoun.
Woodard asked why the city doesn’t consider setting aside a certain amount each year for some of the organizations that get funding every year, such as Visit Spokane and the Spokane Sports Commission. “It would certainly take the question out,” he said. “They’d be able to project their budgets better. That way at least we don’t have to go through this rigmarole every year.”
Mayor Tom Towey said that under the new state laws any such annual allocation would have to go through the advisory committee. Councilman Ben Wick, the committee chairman, said there was some discussion this year about setting guaranteed percentages for some organizations. Wick said he had planned to wait until this year’s lodging tax funding was awarded and then see if his fellow council members were receptive to the idea for next year.
“I think we’re saying the same thing,” Woodard said.