By Annie Andrews
EVERETT, Wash. (KCPQ) – Bikini baristas in Everett, Washington are suing the city over a new dress code, saying their outfits are a form of expression protected under the Constitution.
The lawsuit comes one week after the city started enforcing a new dress code for quick service employees, making bikinis illegal within city limits.
The baristas contend their minimal outfits allowed them to express messages of freedom, openness, acceptance, empowerment and individuality.
“When you go down the road of starting to police women’s outfits, it’s a very slippery slope,” said Amelia Powell, a bikini barista suing the city of Everett. “Today, it’s bikinis for quick service restaurants, and what’s next?”
Powell said she’s concerned about the dress code for quick service workers like herself, but also a citywide lewd ordinance that as a woman could affect her outside of work. Her attorney, Jessica Newman, said the second ordinance enacted by the city should upset everyone.
“One is an amendment to an existing lewd ordinance that’s already on the books that affects all the citizens of Everett. The other one is targeted specifically at bikini baristas. The one that applies to all citizens would affect what women can wear and what part of their body they are exposing in any place in Everett,” she said.
Newman said the lewd law criminalizes outfits that many women would wear during the summer, like a bikini top or bottom. It’s a crime punishable by up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court on Monday, said women would be subjected to undergo “humiliating and intrusive examination” if suspected of breaking the ordinance. Newman said it turns Everett officers into morality police.
“You don’t have to be a bikini barista to have a concern about what’s going on here,” she said.
The new dress code for quick service food stands goes farther than the lewd ordinance, making midriffs and short-shorts off-limits. “Even at the family-friendly stands across the street, the girls wear shorts over there that are not in compliance,” said Powell.
The Everett ordinance states the new code is an effort to protect the public, including the baristas. It stated that crime follows the stands wherever they go. The city would not comment on the pending lawsuit.