In their long-standing case against a city ordinance that would bar them from baring skin while bearing beverages the Bikini baristas in Everett, Washington, have won. The District judge rules in favor of the bikini baristas who claimed the city ordinance violated their rights under the equal protection clause.
The court ruled that the ordinance imposed unequal requirements for men and women, despite rejecting a claim that the city statute violated the First Amendment rights of Hillbilly Hotties employees by stating that pouring coffee while almost naked is not protected expression.
U.S. District Judge Ricardo Martinez wrote in an Oct. 19 ruling for the baristas, “This Ordinance clearly treats women differently than men by banning a wide variety of women’s clothing, not just pasties and g-strings, or bikinis, the restrictions are so detailed they effectively prescribe the clothes to be worn by women in quick service facilities.”
In 2019, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a federal judge’s injunction barring the execution of the law pending a judgment, providing the lower court with a framework for assessing the First Amendment claim, after Everett passed a rule mandating all employees, owners, and operators of “quick service outlets” to wear attire that covers the upper and lower body, the owner of the coffee shop and a small number of employees filed a lawsuit in 2017. The plaintiffs asserted that the law violated both the First Amendment and the Constitution by being too ambiguous.
However it could “encourage a humiliating, intrusive, and demoralizing search on women, disempowering them and stripping them of their freedom,” Martinez claimed, finding that the ordinance was not unconstitutional under the First Amendment.
Martinez wrote, “Assuming the owners of bikini barista stands are unable or unwilling to enforce this dress code, at some point law enforcement will be asked to measure exposure of skin by some method.”
Baristas allowed customers “to photograph and/or touch them for a fee, performed sexual ‘shows,’ openly advertised prostitution activities, and allowed customers to masturbate while watching them perform, all within public view,” as Police reported. The city claimed it passed the ordinance because the coffee stand was contributing to crime.
The judge decided that this was sufficient evidence to refute any argument that serving coffee in the buff constituted free speech. Making legislation that, in order to be enforced would require police to measure the amount of skin revealed by female employees, however, was too far, in Martinez’s opinion.
Saying the police should not be enforcing dress codes, one barista hailed the ruling, “I think this protects our safety from law enforcement touching our body, who’s approving my outfit? Is it my female boss or some random dude cop that I don’t know? I don’t want them having to stick a ruler next to my body,” she said.
— Bo Snerdley (@BoSnerdley) October 31, 2022