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Bikinis baristas can bare skin for now, Everett says as it awaits court ruling

A barista at a Grab-N-Go Bikini Hut espresso stand holds money as she waves to a customer in 2010 just outside the city limits of Everett. Grab-N-Go was the focus of an undercover police investigation in 2009.
A barista at a Grab-N-Go Bikini Hut espresso stand holds money as she waves to a customer in 2010 just outside the city limits of Everett. Grab-N-Go was the focus of an undercover police investigation in 2009. AP file, 2010

The city of Everett has agreed to end its crackdown on bikini baristas — for now.

Everett city officials have agreed — temporarily — to not enforce two new ordinances aimed at bikini baristas that effectively banned swimsuits, g-strings, pasties and lingerie at drive-through coffee shops and other quick-serve food stands.

The measures, which were passed unanimously by the City Council last month, claimed that the city had seen a “proliferation of crimes of a sexual nature” due to the baristas’ scanty clothing. Any clothing revealing bare shoulders, midriffs, buttocks — really anything more revealing than a tank top and shorts — was banned.

The ordinances went into effect on Sept. 5, and the city sent out images of sample clothing deemed acceptable.

One week later, a group of bikini baristas and the owner of Hillbilly Hotties filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court alleging that the ordinances violate their constitutional rights to free expression and their right to privacy.

The plaintiffs also sought a preliminary injunction that would prevent the city from enforcing the ordinances while the case was before the court. On Friday, attorneys for the city agreed to a stipulated order stating that the city would not enforce the ban until the court was able to rule on the request for a preliminary injunction.

But the order also says that “nothing in this stipulation will be construed as evidence of or an admission that any of Plaintiffs’ claims do or do not have merit, and no party may cite this stipulation in aid of or in opposition to any request for substantive relief, including any relief requested in the Motion for Preliminary Injunction.”

City officials did not immediately respond to requests Friday for comment on the court order.

The plaintiffs’ attorney, Derek Newman, said the bottom line is that the bikini baristas, who have been “wearing lots and lots of clothes, more than they would wear in their ordinary lives, can now return to work in their bikinis.”

He said it’s likely that the court will not rule on the motion for the preliminary injunction until mid-November at the earliest. And, he said, he believes strongly that the judge will rule on the baristas’ side.

“These ordinances violated these women’s rights to equal protection under the law since they only apply to women and they interfere strongly with a woman’s right to free expression,” he said.

“Of course these women take these jobs to earn a living, but they also take them because they allow them to express themselves. There are some with tattoos that take the job in part so they can tell stories that they couldn’t tell if they worked someplace like Starbucks.”

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