Federal Appeals Court Rules Against Hillbilly Hotties, Requires ‘Bikini Baristas’ To Cover Up When Serving

Latte art designs created at the Arla Organic Farm Milk Latte Art Throwdown at The Gentlemen Baristas on April 12, 2017 in London, United Kingdom.
Tristan Fewings / Getty Images

The “bikini baristas” at Hillbilly Hotties in Everett, Washington are now required to clothe “minimum body areas” when serving paying customers, after a federal appeals court ruled to enforce a dress code that redefined “lewd” conduct within the city, reported The Daily Mail.

Bikini barista stands have operated for many years in and around Everett, a city of roughly 111,000 people located 28 miles north of Seattle. One establishment in particular, Hillbilly Hotties, which is a chain of drive-up coffee stands, attempted to prove to the court that serving coffee in a bikini is constitutionally protected under the First Amendment.

While the baristas argued that wearing minimal clothing demonstrated female empowerment, confidence and “fearless body acceptance,” Judge Morgan Christen, from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Seattle, felt differently, stating that customers may not see the issue the same way, especially since baristas were soliciting tips.

“Context is everything. The baristas’ act of wearing pasties and g-strings in close proximity to paying customers creates a high likelihood that the message sent by the baristas’ nearly nonexistent outfits vastly diverges from those described in plaintiffs’ declarations.”

A lewd conduct law, which went into effect in 2017, attempted to enforce a dress code at such coffee stands, requiring workers at “quick-serve” retailers – including coffee stands, fast-food restaurants and food trucks – to cover their breasts or pectorals, backs, torsos, buttocks, upper legs and pubic areas while on the job. The rules were initially adopted to combat prostitution, public masturbation, flashing and sexual violence.

Seven baristas, in addition to the owner of Hillbilly Hotties, decided to sue the city after the dress code was proposed in 2017, in an attempt to block it from being put into effect. Initially, lower court U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman in Seattle agreed with them, ruling an injunction against both the dress code and a related ordinance.

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In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs argued, “Just like Starbucks with green aprons, UPS with brown trucks and outfits, and Hooter’s with short-orange shorts, the baristas’ attire evokes a message at work, such as freedom, empowerment, openness, acceptance, approachability, vulnerability and individuality.”

However, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned this judge’s injunction, leaving the dress code in effect, which requires that workers at these types of establishments wear a minimum dress of tank tops and shorts.

According to The Associated Press, the city began taking the bikini baristas seriously after a former Snohomish County Sheriff sergeant pleaded guilty to helping launder money from a prostitution operation, which was run out of roadside stand businesses, after which he was sentenced to one year in jail.