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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Council members consider new proposal to restrict topless baristas

Spokane leaders will consider a new proposal to restrict public nudity, despite a failed effort earlier this year to place the issue before voters.

A rule proposed last week by council members Mike Fagan and Mike Allen would restrict or ban businesses with naked or nearly naked workers if they are near schools, parks, places of worship, day care centers or libraries.

Allen said the proposal still is in flux, but he foresees a rule that would ban businesses with naked or nearly naked workers if they are within 400 feet of those stated locations.

“I recognize the ability of these facilities to exist,” Allen said. “Let’s just not put them where our children are.”

Coffee stands with bikini baristas would not be affected.

It would, however, affect stands that have baristas who wear pasties or other see-through clothing and define those establishments as “adult-oriented businesses.” The rule would not affect businesses if their female workers wear “fully opaque covering” over their genitals, breasts or buttocks and male workers wear the same over their genitals and buttocks.

Adult-oriented businesses would be required to have a sign warning potential customers that employees may lack clothes.

The proposal is significantly less restrictive than a rule Fagan proposed in 2013 that failed on a 4-2 vote.

Allen was one of the council members who opposed Fagan’s plan that would have banned naked or nearly naked coffee stands except in zones where adult entertainment is allowed.

“The other ordinance went too far,” Allen said. “I tried to find a common ground for the people who have legitimate concerns.”

Three women leading an effort to collect signatures to put public nudity restrictions similar to Fagan’s first plan before voters failed this year to gather the number of signatures needed.

Council President Ben Stuckart said the city has “more pressing issues.”

“I’m concerned that they couldn’t even collect the right amount of legitimate signatures,” Stuckart said. “So is this really something that the citizens want the City Council to be spending our time on?”

Councilwoman Amber Waldref said she’s concerned that the proposal’s sign requirement could conflict with the city’s sign ordinance.

“If the school district feels we need to take some sort of action, I’m happy to look into it,” Waldref said. “I just don’t feel it’s a priority.”

Allen said that the City Council’s attorney already has determined that the sign requirement wouldn’t conflict with the sign ordinance – a business would just have to have a sign that complies with it.

He added that some parents of students at Spokane Public Montessori, which is located in the former Havermale High School building, have expressed concerns about the Devil’s Brew coffee stand nearby that has topless Tuesday and Thursday promotions.

“In the one case where one was set up across from a school, it has created issues,” said Allen, who added that he prefers to add a grandfather clause so the proposed rules wouldn’t affect existing businesses.

City Councilwoman Candace Mumm said she’s heard from constituents on both sides.

“We always want to be on the lookout to protect children, but we also need to protect the First Amendment,” Mumm said.

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