Sunday, February 24, 2013

Police give Grab-N-Go bikini coffee stands free advertising by charging baristas with unlawful stripping

Via Buzzfeed

Having scantily clad women serve drive through coffee in the middle of winter is apparently a thing in the State of Washington. Grab-N-Go is one of these things, offering "entertainment with surprisingly superb tasting espresso".

Last Wednesday, Grab-N-Go made the local news in Everett, Washington, for the arrest of three baristas for "exhibition and exposure". According to police, the women (one of whom is only 16) were offering customers even more exposed views of their bodies for cash.

This isn't the first time women at the coffee stand chain have been accused of crossing the line between exploiting their sexuality to sell coffee and actual sex work. In 2009, five different baristas were charged with stripping, allowing customers to touch them, and "whip cream shows".

In a bizarre case, the owner of the chain, Bill Wheeler, went missing in Las Vegas a few months later. His family fought over the business and his son, Bill D. Wheeler Jr., eventually took over.

Like his father before him, Bill Jr. denies any wrongdoing. He told local media that he enforces strict policies for his six baristas, including no drug use, no flashing, and no personal visitors at the stands.
"They have to be dressed a certain way," he said. "Their crotch has to be covered up. They can't expose their areolas." 
On his company Facebook page, however, he was a little more defiant:

We feel this incident is a publicity stunt by the Everett PD for unjustifiable reasons. 
Our policy and procedures strictly state any employee engaging in lewd or inappropriate behavior will be terminated. We also have a zero tolerance policy for drug's as well. 
As always when it comes to any government agency question everything. 
We also thank all of our customers for there support and the Everett policy [police?] department for the free press in yet another waste of our tax payers money.
Free press, indeed. The article went international within a couple of days. Do a Google News search for "Grab-N-Go" and you'll get a bunch of mainstream media hits with headlines like "Busty Baristas Busted" with lots and lots of pictures.

It's a sleazy business operator's dream. Nobody can resist a story about sex, especially when young women are involved. (Yes, I know I am part of the problem here, no matter what I think my intentions are.)

But you have to wonder how much the owner of the business is responsible for the actions of the employees, policy or not, when he promotes his business like this:

Via Facebook

And sells merch like this:

Via Grab-N-Go

Sleazy or not, the Grab-N-Go owner may have a point about the timing of the arrests being a bit of a conspiracy. According to the Seattle Times, the 2009 arrests came on the same day as a public hearing was scheduled on a proposed update to Everett's lewd-conduct ordinance "which would declare drive-up windows a public place, making it illegal for someone to expose their breasts and genitals." While it's understandable that citizens don't want to accidentally see live sex shows at public coffee stands, the obsessive American War On Breasts seems to be complicating the issue.

Via Facebook

The current Everett Municipal Code actually mentions drive-through windows specifically. I'm exerpting it at length because it's kind of interesting.

A.    A “lewd act” is:

1.    An exposure of one’s genitals, anus, or any portion of the areola or nipple of the female breast; or

2.    The touching, caressing or fondling of the genitals or female breasts; or

3.    Masturbation; or

4.    Sexual conduct.

B.    “Public place” means an area generally visible to public view, and includes streets, sidewalks, bridges, alleys, plazas, parks, driveways, parking lots, automobiles (whether moving or not), and buildings open to the general public, including those which serve food or drink or provide entertainment, and the doorways and entrances to buildings or dwellings and the grounds enclosing them, and businesses contained in structures which can serve customers who remain in their vehicles, by means of a drive-up window.

C.    “Sexual conduct” means sexual intercourse or any touching of the sexual or other intimate parts of a person done for the purpose of gratifying sexual desire of either party, whether such persons are the same or opposite sex.

D.    For purposes of this chapter, any activity is obscene:

1.    Which the average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find, when considered as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest; and

2.    Which explicitly depicts or describes patently offensive representations or descriptions of:

a.    Ultimate sexual acts, normal or perverted, actual or simulated; or

b.    Masturbation, fellatio, cunnilingus, bestiality, excretory functions or lewd exhibition of the genitals or genital area; or

c.    Violent or destructive sexual acts including but not limited to human or animal mutilation, dismemberment, rape or torture; and

3.    Which, when considered as a whole, and in the context in which it is used, lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value. For purposes of this chapter, an activity is dramatic if the activity is of, relating to, devoted to, or concerned specifically or professionally with current drama or the contemporary theater.

10.24.020 Lewd conduct.
A.    A person is guilty of lewd conduct if he or she intentionally performs any lewd act in a public place or under circumstances where such act is likely to be observed by any member of the public. The act of breastfeeding or expressing breast milk is not lewd conduct.

I'm no lawyer, but I'm assuming the parts I bolded are why the baristas are being charged under "Soliciting for a lewd act": Every person who solicits another to engage in a lewd act in a public place shall be guilty of a misdemeanor. 

If I had a business like this, I suppose I'd feel targeted too. (Not to mention feeling like I really needed a shower.)

But then again, considering the target market, you just can't buy this kind of publicity:

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