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Kitsap County residents support limitations on 'topless' coffee stands
About 30 Kitsap County residents, mostly mothers, told the county’s planning commission that they don’t want to see the boobs and butts of local baristas as they’re driving down the street. And they definitely don’t want their kids to see it.
“These coffee stands selling a peek of (a woman’s) mostly-nude body for a cup of coffee is degrading to women, who would like to be treated with the dignity and respect we deserve,” said Connie Saylor of Bremerton. “It teaches our boys that girls are to be treated as sex toys.”
But two attorneys representing the coffee stands said that the prohibitions being considered would cut into their business, and the “limited apparel” worn by baristas at the stands is
protected under free speech laws.
All but one of the women who spoke at the meeting favored “option 1,” which would amend the county’s definition of lewd conduct to include “public exposure of one’s genitals, buttocks or any portion of the female breast below the top of the areola,” which is the dark circle around the nipple.
“I think it’s an enforcement nightmare,” said Phillip J. Havers, an attorney representing Espresso Gone Crazy in Gorst. He said the standard would apply equally to everyone across the county.
“Part of the lower cheek is always going to be exposed,” Havers said. “They’ll have to cite mothers at the YMCA, and if they don’t cite them, that’s an equal protection violation under the constitution.”
The county’s staff proposed two other ordinances, but the attorneys representing the coffee stands also disapproved of them.
The county’s “option 2” would require the coffee stands to place appropriate signage outside the shops explaining that the baristas wore “limited apparel,” and to hire bouncers to ensure that no one under age 18 got to the front of the line.
“Option 3” would define adult entertainment more clearly, although, under that code, if a barista wore lingerie or other opaque clothing, it wouldn’t be considered adult entertainment.
“I think the revenue stream would change, it would decrease,” if the county implements the second or third options, Havers said. “There are practical negative consequences that would come up.”
But Marnie Ferriero, a mother of four sons, said that the coffee stands are stealing the innocence of children, which is more valuable than money.
“There’s a lot of stuff you’re talking about that you can’t put a price tag on,” she said. “When their innocence is stolen, you can never get that back. Never.”
The moms offered other reasons for opposing the businesses, sometimes referred to as “sexpresso” stands.
The coffee stands put women in danger of sexual assault, said Anita Ford.
“Women are not sex objects,” she said. “They’re human beings.”
“I know that some young women have been betrayed, and may have limited expectations of what they’re capable of,” Ford said, but she’s convinced that they could find better work than at this type of coffee stand.
“It’s shocking to me that we even need to have such a law passed,” she said. “Is this what we want for our community? I know I don’t.”
Teresa Couch said her children were “violated” when they saw a woman wearing pasties while she was stuck in traffic near one of the topless coffee kiosks.
“I didn’t ask for that,” she said. “As a parent, I try to shield my children as much as possible from that kind of stuff.”
The coffee stands may encourage pornography addictions in men, said Nancy Dunkin.
“We’re just perpetuating this addiction by making these places available,” she said.
Anthony Figueras, 17, said that the limited-apparel stands pose “unfair competition” to coffee stands without a sexual component, “because of their morals,” he said.
“I have seen (non-limited apparel) stands close,” he said, “and I think that’s harsh, to say the least.”
But Havers suggested that they didn’t have a legal case for harming business at other coffee stands.
“With respect to morality issues, that is not something that the government can or should get into,” he said.