At least one man used his smartphone to record the moment for posterity when the Spokane Valley City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to enact a new ordinance aimed at regulating the attire of baristas.
The vote also touched off a brief standing ovation, which stopped when Mayor Tom Towey politely asked for an end to the outburst for decorum’s sake.
The new law was created in response to a flood of complaints about a bikini coffee stand two doors down from City Hall that advertised topless Tuesdays and Thursdays. On those days baristas wore only G-strings and pasties. The ordinance states that all private parts, including at least half of a woman’s breast, must be covered with an opaque covering. Body paint is not considered an opaque cover. Exceptions are allowed for breastfeeding as well as nudity in medical offices and fitness center locker rooms.
The ordinance received its first public opposition Tuesday, but it wasn’t enough to change the outcome. Two nudists testified that the new law would infringe on their rights. “Public nudity, in the appropriate places, is not a threat to the general public,” said Kathy Smith.
Dave Smith said he has lived and worked in the area for 30 years. “We need to be careful when passing any legislation that has unintended consequences,” he said.
Resident Rodney Humphrey said he believes government is “infringing on our constitutional rights nibble by nibble.” People have the right to drive up to that business if they want to, he said. “It’s not like they’re out lurking on the corner showing off,” he said.
Several people also spoke in favor of the ordinance. Shelly Clark, who helped organize the protest against the baristas, acknowledged the argument made by the nudists. “Liberties and rights matter,” she said. “But there is a venue.”
A public street is not the appropriate venue, she said. “I didn’t have to drive on the property to be exposed,” she said.
Councilman Dean Grafos agreed and said that while nudity is appropriate in certain places, this isn’t one of them. “I think that you’ll find that this council respects constitutional rights,” he said.
“I feel that ordinance is valid and it’s what is right for our community,” said Councilman Chuck Hafner.
Councilman Arne Woodard said the turning point for him was learning that Central Valley School District buses had been rerouted to avoid the coffee stand. “I think what we’re doing tonight is the right action,” he said.
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