Pierce County councilman considers ways to regulate bikini baristas

Staff writerJanuary 25, 2014 

A Pierce County councilman is weighing ways to regulate bikini baristas and control how much skin the coffee servers are showing.

Jim McCune, R-Graham, said he’s developing a measure to address the rising number of stands with scantily-clad baristas in the unincorporated Spanaway area.

“It’s increasing and increasing,” McCune said. “It’s not a good policy to have mostly nude baristas.”

One proposal from McCune is to require baristas he considers partly nude to obtain the same license and undergo the same background check as adult dancers at strip clubs.

“I’m just adding a little bit more to our ordinance than has been there before,” McCune said.

It’s unclear exactly what other changes are under consideration and which ones, if any, will advance to a vote of the full County Council.

Pierce County is not alone in paying attention to bikini barista stands. The city of Lakewood is also looking into the issue at the request of a first-year city councilman, though officials say there is little they can do.

McCune declined to elaborate on changes Pierce County is considering because they could be revised. Nothing is scheduled for the County Council’s consideration yet.

A draft proposal from McCune appears to require baristas who dress in a “state of partial nudity” to pay $100 for an annual license and $32.50 for a background check, the same fees strip club dancers must pay.

The added requirements would apply to anyone in “adult sales practice.” That means selling retail goods or services while partially nude “where such conduct is likely to be viewed by a member of the public,” according to the proposal.

County Auditor Julie Anderson said the council’s deputy attorney is redrafting the proposal.

“I suspect it will be significantly different,” she said.

Anderson said she doesn’t support amending the county’s adult dancer regulations to include a different type of business.

“Attaching other adult-oriented licensing definitions/regulations to that particular section of the Pierce County Code creates significant legal issues and puts that code in jeopardy,” she said.

Anderson said she’s “not convinced” a new section of code should be added to deal with partial nudity at coffee stands. She said the county code already prohibits prostitution and lewd conduct, including unlawful public exposure.

“The Pierce County Sheriff has successfully responded to complaints of unlawful public exposure at coffee stands,” Anderson said.

Her office estimates there are about 20 “sexy coffee drive-thrus” in unincorporated Piece County, Anderson said.

McCune said complaints about nudity at bikini barista stands are common.

His original proposal cites increasing complaints of “offensive conduct” — including unlawful exposure — involving businesses with partly nude employees.

It cites negative community impacts including crime, exploitation of female employees, disruption of nearby businesses and “changes in commuter patterns to avoid exposure of minor children.”

The city of Lakewood also started examining the issue recently.

At a recent meeting, City Councilman John Simpson asked City Attorney Heidi Ann Wachter whether there was anything the city could do to regulate coffee stand businesses that advertise barely clothed women.

Simpson, who owns Primo Espresso on Steilacoom Boulevard with his wife, expressed concern over the three bikini barista stands along Bridgeport Way near the northern entrance to the city. He said he’s worried about the impression the stands portray to visitors.

Simpson has described Primo Espresso as a “family friendly” business.

Lakewood City Manager John Caulfield expects to report Wachter’s findings to the council in a couple of weeks. The city is limited in what it can do, he said.

“We don’t have the ability to regulate or legislate the type of clothing that can be worn at a business,” Caulfield said, citing the First Amendment. “What people wear is protected.”

Lakewood has no plan to pursue regulation of bikini barista stands at this point because the council hasn’t asked for it, Caulfield said.

Steve Maynard: 253-597-8647
Staff writer Brynn Grimley contributed to this report.

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