Bikini Baristas Take Case to the Supreme Court

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Last summer, Seattle-area bikini baristas made headlines when their case was overturned by the Federal Appeals Court. Now, the baristas are filing a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court. 

In 2017, seven baristas sued the city of Everett, Washington, located about 30 miles outside of Seattle, for its city ordinance that states,  “exposure or display of one’s genitals, anus, bottom one-half of the anal cleft, or any portion of the areola or nipple of the female breast,” and continued to state that “the minimalistic [sic] nature of the clothing worn by baristas at these ‘bikini’ stands lends itself to criminal activities.”

The ordinance was created after a 2009 event where a prostitution ring was found to be operating outside a different bikini barista stand in town. In 2017, new regulations were passed, eliciting the baristas’ response to sue the city.

The baristas’ legal representation at the time said the ordinance violated women’s rights and the U.S. Constitution, and also claimed it violated the First Amendment and 14th Amendment. 

Now, three years since a U.S. District Judge said that Everett’s city ordinance was likely unconstitutional because the language targeted women, the case has a chance of being heard in Washington, D.C. 

The likelihood of that happening?  

“The chances are low, but I wouldn’t say they’re zero,” Charlotte Garden, a Seattle University of Law professor, tells Eater Seattle. “There is a hard issue about when the First Amendment attaches to conduct that might be either intended to or understood to express a message. The Ninth Circuit took a narrow view of that question and decided that the baristas weren’t covered by the First Amendment at all. But other federal appeals courts have a broader approach. So it is conceivably possible (but still unlikely) that the Court would decide to use this case to resolve that question.”

Meanwhile, bikini baristas can still work in Everett and other parts of Washington State. 

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