Judge Makes Decision in Hugely Important ‘Bikini Barista’ Case

For now, the “bikini baristas” are safe.

When the city of Everett, Washington, passed a new ordinance that established a dress code for coffee shops like the “Hillbilly Hotties,” the “hotties” in question sued, claiming the new law was unconstitutional.

And in a 13-page order Monday, U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman agreed, saying the ordinance is likely too vague and violates the equal-protection guarantees of the 14th Amendment and the 1st Amendment’s Free Expression clause.

Pechman granted an injunction barring the city from enforcing the ordinance while the lawsuit goes on, the Seattle Times reports.

The suit was filed by seven baristas and one owner of the chain of coffee stands in the area.

“Without a preliminary injunction, Plaintiffs will be deprived of their constitutional rights,” Pechman wrote.

“On the other hand, the City will face no serious injustice if the injunction issues,” she said, pointing out that the city has been dealing with the issue for nearly a decade. “The court sees no reason why it cannot continue to do so pending resolution of this action on the merits.”

The city imposed the dress code after allegations of numerous sex crimes at the shops.

The ordinance was passed by the council but only briefly enforced before the lawsuit was filed.

“The court’s order confirms that our clients, like all women, have a constitutional right to express themselves,” said attorney Derek Newman, one of the lawyers representing the baristas. “The City’s over-broad, over-controlling ordinances violated those rights.”

“Our clients would welcome the opportunity to work with the City to address any legitimate concerns about crime by targeting criminals rather than criminalizing what women wear at work and in public,” he said.

One of the arguments against the ordinance is the constitutionality of a dress code that was supposed to be enforced not just at barista stands, but in public. The law uses undefined terms and vague language – like “anal cleft.” Here’s some of the wording:

“An exposure of more than one-half of the part of the female breast located below the top of the areola, provided that the covered area shall be covered by opaque material and coverage shall be contiguous to the areola” and an exposure of “the bottom half of the anal cleft.”

Where exactly is the “anal cleft”? And how do you determine – exactly – the location of the “top of the areola”? Good question.

Effectively, the law would ban skimpy bikinis in these places, but also in public, apparently.

One of the city’s arguments is that the intended message of the baristas – female empowerment, individuality and fierce body confidence — aren’t understood as such by customers and the First Amendment doesn’t apply. Further, the city said it is attempting to mitigate secondary impacts it says is associated with the bikini barista stands, such as lewd conduct, prostitution and sexual exploitation of minors.

What do you think? Are you offended by bikini baristas?