Snohomish County Law Makes Coffee Baristas Hide More Skin

EVERETT, Wash.—The long-running campaign in Snohomish County to rein in drive-through coffee stands featuring nearly nude baristas will culminate Jan. 7 in new laws that will apply to an estimated half-dozen businesses that are in the county but outside the city limits of Everett, Washington.

“The County Council voted unanimously on Dec. 9 to regulate businesses as adult entertainment if employees show too much skin in public,” reports the Herald. “The council also strengthened the county’s lewd conduct law, including tougher penalties and clarifying definitions for public places. That law also holds business owners and managers accountable for allowing lewd conduct.”

The new rules prohibit baristas from wearing such things as thongs or pasties that don’t fully cover rear ends or the bottom portion of the breasts, but they do not prevent workers from wearing bikinis in public.

The move comes after a long campaign by local citizens who were instrumental in pushing the county to enact the new laws. “We’re planning to go to the Everett City Council as sort of a next step,” said Shahram Hadian, who has organized local opposition to the controversial stands.

“Past complaints have included baristas flashing customers and performing simulated sex acts, as well as employees wearing thongs, pasties and other skimpy clothing,” reports the Herald. “The county’s new rules already appear to be moderating behavior even before they take effect,” Hadian said.

“I definitely think it’s had an impact,” he added. “The word has gotten out and they have toned down.”

According to one of the coffee-stand owners, however, the new rules will have little impact on business.

“It’s not a problem,” said Bill Wheeler, the owner of the Grab-N-Go chain of bikini espresso stands. “My girls look just as beautiful in a bikini as they would in pasties anyways.”

Of perhaps greater significance to the county is its inability to conduct future inspections not only of the coffee stands, but of any adult establishment. According to the Herald, the county auditor is responsible for inspecting all such businesses, including adult bookstores and strip clubs, but since 2008, it has lost its three field inspectors—one was laid off, another resigned and a third retired. None have been replaced.

Until new inspectors are hired, the honor code and community vigilance will have to ensure the new laws are obeyed, which is not good news for the relatively few citizens who stirred the outrage pot in the first place. The marketplace, it seems, is speaking equally as loudly.

After one of Wheeler’s stands changed to more family-friendly attire about a month ago, he estimated business dropped by about 95 percent.

“I don’t plan on doing that with any other stand,” he told the Herald. “Nobody wants to buy coffee from a clothing stand.”