EVERETT – Seven bikini baristas and the owner of a chain of the coffee stands sued the city of Everett, Washington, on Monday, saying two recently passed ordinances banning bare skin violate their right to free expression.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle, says the ordinances passed by the Everett City Council deny bikini-stand employees the ability to communicate through swimwear, are vague and confusing, and unlawfully target women.
“Just like Starbucks with green aprons, UPS with brown trucks and outfits, and Hooter’s with short-orange shorts, the baristas’ attire evokes a message at work,” the lawsuit says, adding that such messages include “freedom, empowerment, openness, acceptance, approachability, vulnerability and individuality.”
One of Everett’s new laws requires the workers to wear a minimum of tank tops and shorts. It specifically applies to employees at “quick service” restaurants, which include fast food and food trucks. The other redefines the city’s lewd conduct ordinance. Both took effect early this month.
The city cited “a proliferation of crimes of a sexual nature occurring at bikini barista stands throughout the city” in adopting the measures.
“Employees and owners of barista stands where this conduct occurs are making large sums of money from overtly sexual, lewd conduct, and prostitution,” the city declared in one of the measures.
The city did not immediately return an email seeking comment Monday.
Among the allegations in the lawsuit is that the laws’ definitions of what skin must be covered up are confusing. The dress code for baristas refers to the “upper and lower body,” stomach, and back below the shoulder blades, among other areas.
“The length of a common woman’s shirt is often short enough that stretching or bending would reveal part of her back or stomach,” the lawsuit says.
The other measure bans “an exposure of more than one-half of the part of the female breast located below the top of the areola.”
“To properly enforce the citywide ordinance, a police officer must determine the location of the ‘top of a woman’s areola,’ which can only be seen by exposing the breast,” the complaint says. “This would subject women to humiliating and offensive searches.”
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