A controversial coffee shop is taking Washington by storm, not for the quality of their beverages, but for the staff’s dress code. Bikini Beans Espresso, which also operates in Arizona, has baristas dressed in bikinis, underwear, or even just a conveniently placed sticker while they make your drink and it has been a huge success.
The cafe that quite clearly caters to a predominately male customer base currently has a five star rating on Yelp and has thousands of social media followers. Not everyone is happy about the store, however, with many stating that it is a step in the wrong direction for gender equality, but the outlet’s female owner, Carlie Jo, feels differently, believing that Bikini Beans Espresso actually empowers women.
The francise’s website proudly states, “As the first bikini barista shop in Arizona, we want to empower women to be, and feel good about, themselves. Women everywhere have the right to vote, to be gay, to be successful community leaders and business owners, or even run for president! We have the right to work with grace, confidence and dignity, regardless if it’s in a business suit, scrubs, or a bikini.”
However, not everyone agrees. A local resident known only as “Kimberly” told Zagat that she was appalled when she saw the store while walking with her children. “The problem wasn’t as much what they saw. It was having to explain to my eight, seven and five-year-old kids why there are women without shirts on serving coffee and why there are men in line to get this coffee.”
The franchise has caused such an uproar that Spokane, Washington city councillor Mike Fagan has tried unsuccessfully to outlaw bikini coffee stands in his home state. In a Youtube video that was also posted on the Zagat website, Fagan echoed the sentiment that outlets such as Bikini Beans Espresso are run on a business model based on a foundation of female exploitation.
“Having frequented at least one time in each of these shops, just to see what the consumer is subjected to, we’re talking about three stickers strategically placed – and I’ll leave it up to everybody else’s imagination as to where those stickers are placed,” he stated in the video, adding “It should be all about the coffee and not about the body.”
The store’s staff, however, don’t feel particularly victimized or believe it’s offensive. “I have full families that come in that love me,” barista Kimberly Paterson told People magazine. “Whichever stand I’m at they bring their whole family. They bring their kids, you know, I’ve offered to babysit before,” adding “so it really doesn’t affect kids at all, I think they are just trying to find another thing to be offended by.”