Bikini baristas under scrutiny as Federal Way discusses lewd conduct law


by OWEN LEI / KING 5 News

Posted on September 17, 2010 at 11:02 PM

FEDERAL WAY, Wash. --  Another Western Washington city is looking to set limits on what so-called bikini baristas can wear -- and how they can act.

The Federal Way Police Department is pushing for the law as a pre-emptive move and not in response to any complaint.

"This proposed ordinance would... define lewd conduct and prohibit lewd conduct in public," said Assistant Police Chief Andy Hwang in a staff report. "This new legislation would eliminate some gray areas, fill a gap left by indecent exposure [laws] and provide officers with another enforcement tool to keep our city safe." 

For now the city's only bikini barista shop is The Pink Spot Cafe, which opened three months ago near Pacific Highway and South 276th Street.

"Nothing like also looking at someone who's really cute," said customer Jacob Gage.

"Sometimes you do get your soccer moms that come through here that are a little shocked at first," said barista Rae Wall, decked in black lace lingerie, "but we do make great coffee and we are super nice girls."

The girls who work at the shop follow strict company rules on how much skin to show, no "butt cracks showing, we don't show the bottom of our boobs, we have our nipples covered, so you don't have to worry about seeing those," Wall said.

The proposed lewd conduct ordinance would restrict clothing worn in public places much in the same way.  The text of the ordinance specifically includes "businesses contained in structures which can serve customers who remain in their vehicles by means of a drive-up window."

Snohomish County passed a similar lewd conduct law earlier this year, after five baristas who worked for a different company were arrested in Everett and charged with prostitution for allegedly removing clothing and allowing customers to touch them for money.

Pink Spot owner Lori Bowden also owns more than a dozen other bikini barista stands, including the Cowgirls Espresso Inc. franchise.  She tells KING 5 she actually endorses the law.

"It's not going to affect us," she said. "So many competitors pushed the limit, pushed the limit, pushed limit... there's so many competitors that think less is best, and that's not the case." 

Added Bowden: "I'm not out there trying to cross the line."

Residents, meanwhile, had mixed opinions.

"I don't think there's anything wrong with it," said Gage. "Kids don't see anything worse than they see on TV, right?

"Cute is cute, you know, but you don't want a strip joint serving coffee right next to the McDonald's," said Victoria Mathews, who had her 6-year old daughter in the back seat.

The Federal Way Parks, Recreation, Human Services & Public Safety Committee reviewed the ordinance this week.  It's scheduled to be introduced before the City Council next Tuesday.