Everett City Council to vote on proposed changes to bikini barista dress code

Potential changes in the bikini barista dress code will soon be put to a vote in Everett. The city council must decide on the changes as part of a lawsuit settlement after a federal court ruling found the former dress code was unconstitutional.

Though their choice of attire is not the typical poolside fashions, bikini baristas could soon work in minimal clothing as long as it is in compliance with the city’s Lewd Conduct Dress Requirement standards.

"The baristas will be able to dress just as they can anywhere else in the city meeting the lewd conduct standard, which is basically a minimal bikini," said Ramsey Ramerman, Everett’s deputy city attorney.

The proposed amended ordinance on the dress code comes after a long legal battle dating back to 2009. City officials said during that year, Everett Police Department received more than 40 reports against area coffee stands for indecent exposure and inappropriate conduct. In 2013, an investigation led to the arrest of two stand owners accused of prostitution and exploiting a minor.

In an attempt to prevent sexual misconduct and exploitation, the city initiated a dress code in 2017 for "quick service facilities" which includes coffee stands, fast food restaurants, delis, food trucks, coffee shops, businesses that provide drive-thru forms of food and/or beverage service or are focused on quick service providing minimal or no table service.  

The 2017 dress code’s minimum requirements were tank tops and shorts.

"The original purpose of this legislation was primarily to address the exploitation of conduct of the barista stand owners who were able to encourage illegal conduct at the stands while facing very little personal risk," said Ramerman, while reading the proposed amendment during a city council meeting.

Jovanna Edge, owner of three bikini barista stands, filed a lawsuit against the city saying the 2017 dress code was against their First Amendment rights of freedom of expression. In 2022, the U.S. District Court ruled the city’s dress code was unconstitutional.

"In the lawsuit in 2020, the trial court upheld the city’s lewd conduct ordinance, but found that the minimum dress requirements in the Quick Service Ordinance violated equal protection of the baristas," said Ramerman.

As part of the $500,000 lawsuit settlement, the city agreed to amend its Quick Service Ordinance, making baristas subject to the Lewd Conduct Dress Requirement standards.

The proposal would require the workers to cover "minimum body areas" with opaque material. It states that: "such clothing shall not be see-through and must fit adequately so that all minimum body areas remain covered at all times, including when the wearer is sitting, standing, bending, reaching or performing other work duties."

The amendment outlines body areas as "one’s genitals, anus, or any portion of the areola or nipple of the female breast, and at least 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 (body paint is not "opaque material"); and the bottom half of the anal cleft."

"With this amendment, the only real effect on this is on the stand owners requiring them to enforce the lewd conduct standard for their employees and no additional burden is out on the baristas," Ramerman.

If the city council votes to approve, stand owners will be held accountable if their workers don’t follow the dress code. This includes a $250 fine for the first violation.

"What the law will do is put the onus on the stand owners to ensure that their employees are complying with lewd conduct standard while they’re at work, and they will face potential fines and probationary license requirement and ultimately could lose their license after three violations," said Ramerman.

City council is scheduled to vote on the amendment on April 17. 

Edge told FOX 13 that she supports the proposal.

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