A number of drive-through coffee shops staffed by "bikini baristas" have sparked controversy across the state
If you go to grab a cup of coffee in Spokane, Washington, you might run into baristas who look a little different.
In a new video, restaurant guide Zagat explores the rising trend of topless drive-through coffee shops in Washington state, where baristas at cafés like Bare Beans Espresso and Smokin’ Hot Espresso will serve up your caffeine fix sans clothes.
Warning: the video below features partly nude baristas.
“I know I do it to support myself and my family – and that it’s just fun,” says Denaro, a barista at Port Orchard’s Banana Hammock Espresso, the only male-staffed topless coffee stand in the state. “Why wouldn’t you want to just go get coffee from someone who looks good, you know what I’m saying? If I’m going to go get coffee I’d rather go get it from a hot guy or a hot girl.”
But as Zagat’s deep dive proves, the ever-growing popularity of scantily clad baristas has increasingly drawn the animosity of concerned locals.
“The problem wasn’t as much what they saw, it was having to explain to my 8-, 7- and 5-year-old kids why there are women without shirts on serving coffee and why there are men in line to get this coffee,” Spokane resident Kimberly Curry tells Zagat about happening upon a shop manned by bikini baristas. “And I’m all for people doing what they want to do but I don’t want it imposed on my family.”
But Brittany Paterson, who proudly makes lattes in pasties at Spokane’s Bare Beans Espresso, says there isn’t anything family-unfriendly about her job. “I have full families that come in that love me. Whichever stand I’m at they bring their whole family. [They bring] their kids, you know, I’ve offered to babysit before. So it really doesn’t affect kids at all, I think they are just trying to find another thing to be offended by,” she says.
Her City Council representative Mike Fagan, however, thinks local businesses have taken the provocative attire too far. “It should be all about the coffee and not about the body,” he argues. “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.”
“I don’t want to pound on the ‘It’s for the children’ argument, but that is what it’s all about,” Fagan adds.
Banana Hammock owner Adam Lovejoy insists that critics are overreacting to his business model, and that he and his staff always keep it “professional.” “You can go to the beach and see people with less on than we have, and we don’t treat it in a sexual manner,” he says.
And while Fagan worries that bikini drive-throughs promote the “exploitation of women,” Allison, a manager at Bare Beans, describes the experience as “empowering”: “A lot of people think that I’m forced to do this or they ask me, ‘Do you have to wear that?’ and I’m like, ‘I choose to.’ It’s something that I choose to do, it’s not something that I feel like is demeaning. It’s more empowering than anything.”