County considers three regulations for 'topless' coffee shops

Kitsap County’s ‘topless’ coffee kiosks could face one of three types of regulation currently proposed by the county’s department of community development.

The county drafted the regulations because several citizens, mostly moms, have complained to the county commissioners, asking that the baristas either wear clothes, or warn the public that the coffee kiosks are inappropriate for children.

The department of community development has suggested that the county commissioners either prohibit lude conduct at the barista stands, ensure that potential customers have been properly warned before they see anything that could be inappropriate or establish a definition of adult entertainment that includes some activities at some of the barista kiosks.

Emily Selph, a mother of three young children from Bremerton, argued in favor of the first solution at a county commissioner’s meeting in April, saying that the pasties worn at the kiosks are obscene.

Legally, obscenity is defined as what the “average person applying contemporary community standards and viewing the material as a whole would find it to be offensive.”

“I would ask you to envision this scenario,” Selph said, “a lady wearing nothing but pasties is standing on the street corner as opposed to in the kiosk.”

“There would be a veritable uproar from the ‘average person applying contemporary community standards,’ ” she continued.

So, it shouldn’t be legal for a minor to view the same thing in a kiosk, she argued.

Lary Keeton, the county’s director of community development, noted several advantages to this option.

It successfully “eliminates exposure to the general public,” and “eliminates the need for land use regulatory process,” he wrote in an executive summary of the options.

But it also, “requires current operators to change business operations/methodology,” which could result in, “potential closing of barista stands service niche population and unemployment.”

If the baristas aren’t prohibited from wearing pasties, then the barista stands should be run as an adult entertainment venue, said Marnie Ferraro, a mother of four boys.

“It’s very disconcerting to just be at a stop light, and next thing you know, ‘Oh my,’” she said in April. “To be caught off guard by this was very disconcerting and upsetting. It would be different if we walked into an actual establishment.”

Kitsap County’s commissioners could prevent this through one of two ordinances.

In the first, they would be required the barista stand's owners to notify the public about the adult nature of the coffee shop through appropriate signage.

They could also require the shop owners to hire people to verify that patrons be older than 18, before buying anything there.

Keeton noted several advantages to this option.

It allows the coffee shops to operate in appropriate zones, regulated as an adult oriented business, while warning the general public about their adult nature, he wrote.

It also includes a public participation in the adult regulation process, he said.

He also sees some disadvantages to the solution.

It “requires business owners to change signs” and “requires business owners to operate as an adult business, may incur additional operational costs,” he wrote.

The third option would provide a definition of adult entertainment that’s currently missing from the county’s code, providing clearer regulations to the coffee shop owners.

This solution, “eliminates exposure to general public,” he noted, but, “requires owners to choose if they wish to operate as an adult entertainment business or not and “requires current owners to change operational methodology by covering female barista’s breast below the areola.”

Kitsap County’s board of commissioners have requested that the county's planning commission hear the proposals before deciding which to implement. The department of community development is working to schedule a work study and hearing about the issue.

Keeton hopes it's on the agenda as soon as the first meeting in August, on August 2 at 6 p.m. at the Kitsap County Administration Building chambers.

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