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Judge will decide if Everett ordinance violates free speech of Bikini Baristas

A federal court judge will now decide whether a City of Everett ordinance violates the free speech of bikini baristas or is designed to deter crime. (Photo: KOMO News)

EVERETT, Wash. - A federal court judge will now decide whether a City of Everett ordinance violates the free speech of bikini baristas or is designed to deter crime.

"There is an art form to being a bikini barista," said attorney Derek Newman, who is representing the bikini baristas. "There's serving coffee and there's also somewhat of a performance, and if the somewhat of a performance element is gone then what you have is Starbucks,"

Newman said the city is trying to regulate clothing choices and shouldn't be able to do that.

"We aren't worried about the morals of this,” said Everett City Attorney Ramsey Ramerman. “This isn't about bikinis, it's about the criminal conduct at the stands.”

Ramerman said the city has been dealing with criminal conduct at stands for more than a decade.

During investigations, police found women doing more than just "flashing" customers-- they were also engaging in prostitution and masturbation.

"We think that having this minimum body coverage is the best way to stop the intent of people wanting to go there for the sexual conduct," said Ramerman. "It isn't going to have that level of attraction and it makes it easier to detect."

During the court appearance, Judge Marsha Pechman questioned both sides and, at times, seemed to cast doubt on the city's ordinance.

At one point she asked, "If you believe these baristas are engaged in criminal conduct why do you change what they wear as opposed to what they do?"

Pechman also suggested steps the city could take to deter the crime like require business owners to put up cameras and record license plates of customers.

"It comes down to the issue of economic opportunities," said bikini barista Amelia Powell who attended the hearing. "Young, healthy men can go into fields like construction and manual labor whereas women don't have these same kind of options."

Powell said bikini barista stands give women a "better option" than becoming an escort or stripper.

"Stripping is - you’re putting yourself in a more precarious position," said Powell. "You’re putting yourself in more danger. You’re putting yourself in closer proximity with customers that might not have the best intentions."

Judge Pechman said she expects to announce her ruling in 10 days.

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