It is an unfortunate truth that sex sells only because we buy it. With the women from the HBO hit series “Sex and the City” knowing this truth all too well, the relationship between sex and cities across the country has caused many to ask where to draw the line.
Less than a week ago I received a text message from a friend in Florida explaining he had just heard mention of my hometown, Bonney Lake, Washington on MSNBC. He then asked if I had gotten coffee from the bikini baristas yet. Yes, you read it right, coffee baristas wearing bikinis serving the people of Washington their daily dose of caffeine – a tall order for the state that brought the world Starbucks.
What caught the eye of producers thousands of miles away were reports of a barista wearing nothing but a bikini bottom and pasties. The video that appeared on MSNBC featured Tawnya McLavey; a Bonney Lake resident who was alarmed to find out that while filling up at a gas station, her kids had spotted a naked woman. Of course, the woman was not naked, but a pasty clad barista – a mistake easily made from nearby business and the busy road neighboring this risqué coffee stand.
Being a former barista myself, the first concern I had was for these controversial baristas’ safety. I for one would not want to deal with hot liquids when 80% of my skin is exposed. I guess it goes without saying that beyond good looks, grace with a pitcher of 160-degree milk is a pre-requisite for employment. But beyond the hazards of the job, most were concerned of the potential harms to the community.
Second degree burns have never been this revealing!
There were rumors of calls to the local police about the rising scandal in coffee huts throughout the Washington area. I’ve even heard mentions of an undercover operation by officers to see if any laws were actually being broken. When no arrests were made, residents took to the streets to protest this “mochachino” travesty. Unfortunately for organizers, the protests were under attended and shops hosting these bikini baristas were seeing more profit by the day. Now, the issue has been brought to cities not only in Washington, but Oregon as well, where a similar coffee stand made ripples in Salem.
The concerns proposed by many residents question the city’s authority to legislate on this issue. Is there a line to be drawn when women wearing pasties – attire normally confined to gentlemen’s clubs – are serving people their coffee? Should there be a sign required to notify the customer of the upcoming scantily dressed barista? Should the coffee stands be forced to remain PG? Is there any solution that is in the realm of city initiatives? Or will peeved patrons just have to take their business elsewhere?
All these questions and more are on the minds of McLavey and like-minded parents throughout the community. Perhaps if societies stopped awarding this conduct with money and fame this dilemma would not occur, simply because the bikini baristas would go out of business. However, the facts must be faced; sex sells. What is a city to do?
With Cowgirls Espresso, the culprit of this coffee drama and a growing franchise, more turmoil is expected. Selected themes such as “Bikini Wednesday,” and “School Girl Thursday,” make clear that these baristas plan to be around for quite some time. Only after the city pursues successful legal action will these girls step down from their position that no harm can be done when they are wearing what would be acceptable at the local beaches – the pasty girl is an odd case of taking “Fantasy Friday” one step too far.
Whether or not this entrepreneurial spirit can be crushed by an outraged city council is a question reserved for lawyers and judges. My guess is the answer will be no. Regardless, what remains apparent is that these Cowgirls Espresso stands are popping up all over Seattle, near military bases and even in small towns like Bonney Lake.
What can be gathered by this is that cities as of now do not have the “moral authority” to shut down business tactics that are judged “distasteful” unless there exists a law that explicitly prohibits them. So far no law has been found and bikini baristas will continue serving Seattle what Fox News referred to as a “Hot Cup of Joe.”
- Evan Miller
The New Argument