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Wednesday, April 8, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Bikini Barista issue goes to Spokane County officials

The battle over bikini baristas moved this week to the Spokane County Courthouse, as county commissioners said they will consider their own version of an espresso stand dress code.

County Commissioner Shelly O’Quinn said she has received numerous emails from constituents asking the county to consider a minimal clothing law for servers at java stands in the unincorporated county.

The decision to consider the issue comes as Spokane Valley City Council members take up a coffee-stand exposure law next month. The public could get its first chance to comment on that proposal on Nov. 12.

The issue has evolved into a local morality play, with some arguing that scantily clad women serving coffee drinks undermine community standards while others say buying coffee from a woman wearing pasties is a personal choice for both the customer and the server.

The Spokane City Council in September voted 4-2 against a control ordinance, in part because it was unlikely to be enforced.

Spokane County is patterning its proposal after the one under consideration in Spokane Valley, where the county sheriff’s office provides police services under contract.

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney James Emacio said he wants the laws to be as similar as possible for easier enforcement between the two jurisdictions.

O’Quinn and fellow Commissioner Al French said the stands currently known to be serving espresso with a flash of flesh are located in Spokane and Spokane Valley and that they are not aware of any located in unincorporated areas of the county.

It may not be a problem that needs addressing by the county for now, they said.

“I feel an obligation to at least have a discussion,” said O’Quinn, who said she’s received a large number of email requests from constituents in her district, which includes Spokane Valley, to enact an ordinance.

The proposed Valley ordinance says the purpose of the law “is to establish a regulatory framework regarding exposure of certain human body parts in a public place.” It defines specific “prohibited body parts” and says that half of the area of a woman’s breasts must be covered, but not by tattoos, paint, latex or other applied surface.

The law goes on to allow exceptions for breast-feeding, educational purposes, art performances, medical care, science or places customary for undress such as bathrooms, changing rooms and saunas.

Proponents of the law have said that one of their concerns is that unsuspecting children will see the baristas.

This story has been updated from the version that ran in print to reflect the fact that the Spokane County Board of Commissioners has not planned a public hearing on a possible ordinance.

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