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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane Valley City Council takes on bikini baristas

Spokane Valley City Council members said Thursday they’d like to see a new law regulating nudity at drive-thru coffee stands, just days after the Spokane City Council turned down a similar proposal.

The announcement that the Spokane Valley council would create an ordinance to regulate the attire of scantily clad baristas prompted applause from the crowd at a special meeting Thursday.

The meeting was called after more than 200 people packed the Spokane Valley City Council’s regular meeting last week to demand the city do something about baristas wearing only pasties and g-strings at a coffee shop two doors from City Hall.

Council members didn’t specify what the new ordinance would do or any potential penalties for not following it. City Attorney Cary Driskell said he’d get to work drafting it, however.

In making their statements in favor of an ordinance, several council members said they had no desire to legislate morality. But Councilman Rod Higgins said he felt the owner of XXXtreme Espresso was trying to force her morality on others.

“I deeply resent it when someone tries to impose it on me,” he said.

Barely clothed baristas are pushing the envelope, Higgins said. “I think she put a finger in our eye,” he said of coffee stand owner Sarah Birnel. “Perhaps we can legally return the favor.”

The city looked into whether the baristas were committing a crime when staffers noticed signs advertising topless Tuesdays, Driskell said.

However, “the existing laws that we have do not prohibit that kind of conduct,” he said. While baristas’ attire is skimpy, it does not violate indecent exposure laws, Driskell said.

The coffee stand at 11809 E. Sprague Ave. has drawn protests, and a member of the Central Valley School Board says school buses have changed their routes so students don’t catch a glimpse of the baristas.

At last week’s Spokane Valley City Council meeting, several of those testifying alluded to council members facing repercussions at the ballot box if they failed to take action against the coffee stand.

Councilman Chuck Hafner said the process to create new laws is not quick. “It wasn’t that we were sitting on our hands,” he said. “We have a process to go through as a city.”

Hafner said he was worried about the proliferation of other such businesses if the city does not act. “Where will it end?” he said. “Will it be body paint next?”

Councilman Arne Woodard said he believes there can be some sort of compromise that will respect the rights of business owners while also addressing public discomfort with the baristas’ nudity. “We have to be careful,” he said. “I don’t want to discourage businesses from coming here.”