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Everett council cracks down on bikini barista stands

KOMO file photo:  Bikini baristas in Everett now have some new rules to follow after the City Council passed two new ordinances Wednesday night.

EVERETT, Wash. - Bikini baristas in Everett now have some new rules to follow after the City Council passed two new ordinances Wednesday night.

One ordinance would require a dress code for what the city calls "quick service restaurants,” including barista stands. Workers would have to at least wear tank tops and shorts.

Another ordinance makes it a misdemeanor for coffee stand owners to facilitate "lewd conduct," and comes with a new dress code that does not allow intimate body parts to be exposed, even if the barista is wearing body paint or sheer clothing. The punishment would be up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Both ordinances were passed unanimously.

Everett's police chief says the new ordinances will help fight prostitution.

And City Attorney Ramsey Ramerman agrees. “Any problem you’d have with a strip club we’re having with these stands. It doesn’t mean every owner is running them like a strip club, but the potential is there and the money is there."

“It is not about anyone being offended by the bikinis,” Ramerman said. “It is about the significant secondary criminal conduct that we’ve had at these stands.”

Bikini Barista stands in Everett have been at the center of several investigations over the past decade.

In 2009, the city prosecuted a group of baristas for their participation in a prostitution ring, though little changed according to Ramerman. In 2014, the owner of Java Juggs pleaded guilty to running a brothel out of several stands.

“It’s certainly true not every owner is going to permit this kind of conduct, but the problem is the business model permits it,” Ramerman said.

But critics of the new dress code say it sets a bad precedent and potentially violates constitutional rights.

Emilija Powell works at Hillbilly Hotties in Everett and has been a bikini barista for six years.

“It’s our bodies and it’s our choice,” Powell said.

Powell says most of her coworkers are mothers, and the bikini baristas she knows are all just trying to make an honest living.

“We’re not drug addicts, we’re not prostitutes, we’re not criminals, we’re not breaking any sort of laws,” she said. “We’re just doing what we enjoy doing.”

Schuyler Lifschultz, who co-owns Hillbilly Hotties, says he and several others plan to file an appeal to the new ordinance in federal court next week, claiming it violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

He says if the ordinance goes into effect, he will likely close his doors.

The Everett mayor is expected to sign the ordinance next week. Then the stands have 15 days to comply.

Once it goes into effect, a first violation will require the owner to get a probationary license, and after three violations the city will shut them down.

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