The bikini baristas of Everett, Washington, won a federal court case protecting their constitutional right to be skimpily dressed while serving coffee.
The city council of Everett passed a dress code in 2017 prohibiting some vendors from showing certain parts of their bodies while performing their jobs and tied the regulation to potential exploitation of women and “adverse impacts on minors.”
A group of bikini baristas sued on the basis that their First Amendment right to free expression was being infringed upon.
“This is about women’s rights. The city council should not tell me what I can and cannot wear when I go to work, it’s a violation of my First Amendment rights,” said barista Natalie Bjerke at the time.
On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Ricardo Martinez ruled that the town’s dress code was unconstitutional because it violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution, even though he rejected the argument that the ordinances infringed on free speech.
The record shows this Ordinance was passed in part to have an adverse impact on female workers at bikini barista stands,” Martinez wrote.
“There is evidence in the record that the bikini barista profession, clearly a target of the Ordinance, is entirely or almost entirely female. It is difficult to imagine how this Ordinance would be equally applied to men and women in practice,” he added.
In 2009, law enforcement officials made several arrests at quick-service coffee stands for prostitution and indecent exposure charges. Some of the servers were accused of performing erotic shows for customers and allowing them to fondle or photograph them for $80.
“This is not about being offended by people wearing bikinis,” said Assistant City Attorney Ramsey Ramerman in 2017. “Some of these stands had the characteristics of a poorly run strip club, and trying to enforce standards under the previous law was simply ineffective.”