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Doug Clark: Spokane City Council navigates barista storm to right port

It’s a commonly held belief that the public couldn’t care less about government.

But that’s only because government is almost always dealing with such dull and boring stuff, like annexations, solid waste management or allowing Wal-Mart to build one of its megastores in some poor sap’s backyard.

When our leaders focus on something truly relevant, like young women who serve coffee in a state of near-nudity, suddenly the public couldn’t be more excited about government.

Such was the case at Spokane’s City Hall on Monday night.

The Council Chamber was practically bursting at the seams with citizens who:

A. Think nearly nude baristas are destroying the moral fabric of Spokane and Spokane Valley or …

B. Are OK with nearly nude baristas as long as the coffee’s hot.

Always game for a good scrap, I took a ringside seat at the meeting to see how the council would vote on an “Unlawful Public Exposure” ordinance that council members Mike Fagan and Nancy McLaughlin co-sponsored to satisfy the aforementioned “A” side of the debate.

Unfortunately, there was a slight problem before we ever got to this pressing issue.

We had to endure a number of tedious things that drive the public away from government and keep citizens on the couch watching reruns of “Duck Dynasty” or “Honey Boo-Boo.”

I’m talking about …

1. Some guy who didn’t like the city telling him how to spend his money.

2. Another guy who couldn’t remember what the heck he wanted to talk about.

3. Another guy who thinks American coal is way better than Chinese coal.

4. A vote on some park stuff that I didn’t follow.

5. Some talk about graffiti.

6. Those evil red-light intersection cameras.

7. “ZZZzzzzzz.”

8. Sorry. I nodded off for a while.

Two hours later, Council President Ben Stuckart woke everyone up and told us to go take a break.

This gave me time to reflect on one of the more curious parts of the cappuccino crisis.

This was the woman who claimed she was misled by a “Topless Tuesdays and Thursdays” sign at one of the controversial XXXtreme Espresso shacks.

According to our Sunday news story, she believed the sign “referred to serving coffee without a lid.”

Far be it from me to make any judgments. But this is like thinking that you have to take a passport with you whenever you go to the International House of Pancakes.

Finally, the council reconvened with Stuckart punishing Fagan by making him read his ordinance, which is R-rated in its use of graphic terms for those naughty parts.

Then public testimonials began. Here’s a paraphrased sampling of some ordinance pros and cons.

PRO – This is a simple decision between right and wrong.

CON – Why create laws that will not likely be enforced?

PRO – This is not Vegas, this is Spokane, Washington.

CON – What about those racy magazines at the grocery store checkouts?

CON – I’m concerned with the hypocritical nature of this ordinance.

CON – The ordinance is about purity and morality that is completely outdated.

PRO – We have to have a line that protects our children.

CON – I enjoy what these girls do. And that’s it!

CON – He wants to first see a study on how bare baristas harm children.

PRO – The owner doesn’t have the right to run an adult entertainment business.

PRO – The baristas were flaunting everything they had.

PRO – A column by Doug Clark said the issue was silly. This is anything but silly.

With deadline looming and my name being taken in vain, it was time for me to get out before the torches and pitchforks came out.

In the end, the council did the right thing and voted to dump this exercise in hysteria. Sometimes the government, as boring as it is, does work.

Not that I plan to patronize these near-naked bimbettes.

But I do believe in that venerable free market standard that has been championed by some of the nation’s best economists.

Should the barista be bare – let the buyer beware.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at