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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Bikini Baristas Offering Hot Coffee and Skimpy Service


"In a short, sheer, baby-doll negligee and coordinated pink panties, Candice Law is dressed to work at a drive-through espresso stand in Tukwila, and she is working it.

"Customers pull their trucks up to the window, where Law greets each with an affectionate nickname, blows kisses, and vamps about as she steams milk for a mocha. 'You want whipped cream?' she asks, a sly smile playing on her pierced lip.

"The next customer rolls up, and Law throws a long leg onto the window sill, like an indie-rock ballerina at the barre.

“'Do you like my leg warmers?' she asks. 'Aren’t they hot?'”

(Amy Roe. "Some coffee stands get steamier." The Seattle Times. January 22, 2007.)

Stupid me. It was not until I read this week about a barista from Everett, Washington, who died from injuries suffered in a freak explosion while a serving up coffee to customers in her bikini that I even realized bikini baristas existed. Not to belittle or downplay this tragic accident, but the hot coffee and hot lady connection made me scratch my old head.

I had no idea bikini baristas have been grinding more than coffee beans at sexpresso establishments across the country. These places have evidently found a strategy to "reach out" to customers who’ve never set foot in a Starbucks. Coffee historians claim the "Natte Latte" chain's first location was opened in November 1999 in Kitsap Country, Washington, and its employees began sporting pink leather hotpants in 2001.

(Chris Henry. "Baristas Aim to Up Coffee Sales by Stripping Down."
Kitsap Sun. February 15. 2008.)

Then, in 2003, "Cowgirls Espresso" opened its first location in Tukwila, Washington. A few months after opening as the summer heat came to town, owner Lori Bowden adopted employee suggestions that they start a "Bikini Wednesday" promotion. Sales took off, and other scantily-clad theme days soon followed. The concept of "bikini baristas" spread quickly featuring attractive young women dressed in attire such as bikinis, lingerie, stockings, and heels.

(Gene Johnson. "Seattle-Area Coffee Shops Show Some Skin."
The Washington Post. January 29, 2007).

With names the like "Peek A-Brew, "Grab n' Go," "Smokin' Hot Espresso," "Knotty Bodies Espresso," "Sweet Spot," and "Java Jigglers," the provocative coffee shops have proven to be novel, popular places -- especially in the State of Washington, which is rather ironic considering Portland and Seattle were recently awarded the title of cloudiest cities in the United States.

But, some people have claimed they violate erotic entertainment ordinances and should be off limits.

For example, county officials responded to complaints about Espresso Gone Wild in Belfair, Washington. In 2008, the establishment was prohibited from allowing employees to wear pasties and their baristas now wear bikinis.

Arrests were made in Snohomish County, Washington, in 2013 following raids on seven coffee shops accused of selling more than coffee. (It was priced at $7 a cup, but “a show” was allegedly offered, for example, when a $20 bill was presented by an undercover officer.)

(Martha Neil. "Do coffee baristas serve up too much while wearing too little? Cities enact new laws, conduct raids." American Bar Association Journal. January 28, 2014.)

Residents in another community have surveilled a local stand and called for boycotts of companies whose employees patronize the establishments. Many municipalities in Washington have been asked to determine "how hot is too hot" as people complain about scantily clad bikini baristas.

Despite resistance, the Washington craze has rapidly gained popularity. Now, you can find bikini baristas in North Carolina, Colorado, Oregon, Ohio, Florida, Maryland, Georgia, Nevada, Missouri and Texas.

One chain, Bottoms Up Espresso ("Making Coffee Sexy"), has become a favorite among social media users with their baristas featured regularly on the website The Chive and other popular sites.

The concept of Breastaurants as popularized by Hooters has been commonly accepted in the United States. Why not perky coffee? After all, sales are booming for titillating eateries.Another of the most popular chains, the Celtic-themed Tilted Kilt, features gorgeous young women in knee-high socks, short plaid kilts, and skimpy bra tops serving food like shepherd's pie and Irish stew to hungry folks. Tilted Kilt saw sales grow 18% to $196 million in 2013 compared to the previous year, according to Technomic. The company currently has 94 locations, up from 14 in 2008.

And, rival Twin Peaks billed as the "ultimate sports lodge" offers "everything you crave and more: hearty made-from-scratch comfort food, draft beer served at a teeth-chattering 29 degrees and all the best sports on TV shown on high-definition flat screens." The fare is served by "friendly and attentive Twin Peaks Girls," offering their signature "Girl Next Door charisma and playful personalities to ensure that your adventure happens at the Peaks." Their sales grew 68% to $165 million over the same time period, as the chain nearly doubled its locations.

By comparison, the entire restaurant industry's sales grew 4% in 2013, according to the National Restaurant Association.

(Hayley Peterson. "'Bikini Barista' Coffee Shops Are Exploding In The Northwest." Business Insider. September 02, 2014.)

Of course, businesses that break the law such as the establishment where baristas allegedly performed sex acts in return for tips are nothing other than undercover sex shops. Consider what Java Juggs was caught doing. Coffee drinks there started at $6. But for another $14, baristas would allegedly flash their breasts or genitals to customers, according to charging documents reviewed by the Associated Press.

A customer described the system in a Yelp review, saying, "[The barista] conversed while making my coffee and then said for $20.00 she would show me everything and get naked." The customer wrote. "I told her that was an expensive cup of coffee and asked what she'd show me for $5.00. She showed me plenty."

(Hayley Peterson. "'Bikini Barista' Coffee Shops Are Exploding In The Northwest." Business Insider. September 02, 2014.)

But, before you scream about sexism, consider that former male stripper Chris Mullins decided to open an all-male version in February in Spokane, Washington. At Hot Cup of Joe, shirtless men serve coffee instead of women in bikinis. I guess turnabout is fair play.

So, all in all, expensive coffee with legs and a little seductive boobie action has become part of American culture. Perhaps the biggest question is "Why?"

The existence of bikini baristas draws ire from Lindy West, Seattle-based writer, editor, and performer. She says ...

"I don't have any moral objection to women making coffee in their underwear (or sex work in general, for that matter, and some of these scandals certainly qualify as such). As long as they're compensated fairly and they're not coerced and their consent can be safeguarded somehow and there's at least a space heater in there or something. Obviously I wish we lived in a world where the objectification of women wasn't so ubiquitous and profitable, but I don't think taking away women's livelihoods in the short-term is a good solution on that front."

 West continues ...

"How can they (people) stand to drink coffee without any idea of what their barista's vulva looks like? How can they live without the joy of eating a scone that was recently stored near the razor-burned pubis of a sullen 19-year-old?!? What kind of a life is that?

"So, keep on bikini-ing, I guess, bikini baristas! And I'll keep on driving the extra 10 minutes down Aurora to get to a Starbucks or something because all the hometown pride in the world isn't going to get me to drink crotch-coffee."

(Lindy West. "Washington's Weird Bikini Barista Culture." Jezebel. February 05, 2014.)

Then, there's a letter to the editor by Laura Hyatt. Hyatt claims ...

"I am a 35-year-old mother of a 10-year-old son, and I have absolutely no problem with these baristas. They could be naked for all I care, as long as they make a good cup of coffee. Those who complain about the way the girls are dressed need to loosen up. They are too uptight about the human form."You don’t want a girl in a bikini serving you drinks? Then you can choose to go somewhere else for your coffee. There are over 10 other espresso places in Auburn alone to choose from. We all have a right to choose what we want for ourselves – whether it’s a bikini barista or provocative mermaids on our coffee cups.

"Life’s too short to worry how other people dress. The outfit doesn’t make the mocha, the barista does."

(Laura A. Hyatt. "Baristas should wear what they want — so long as the coffee's good."Auburn Reporter. June 03, 2008.)

And, so it goes. Food, drink, anatomy -- drive and desire create some strange bedfellows. Would you agree?


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