Federal Appeals Court Rules on Bikini Baristas

Last week, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court ruling that blocked the city of Everett, Washington, from enforcing a certain dress code at “bikini barista” businesses.

After years of complaints from residents, as well as evidence of illegal behavior at various coffee stands, the city’s government passed two ordinances in 2017: one that prohibited “quick-service facility” workers from wearing bikinis and other revealing clothing, and another expanding the definition of “lewd” conduct to include public displays of specific body parts. That year, the owner of local coffee stand chain Hillbilly Hotties, along with several baristas, sued the city to block the dress code, and U.S. District Court Judge Marsha Pechman ruled in favor of the coffee chain, saying that the ordinances were too vague and violated First Amendment rights and imposing an injunction.

On July 3, Judges Morgan Christen, Sandra Ikuta, and Jennifer Choe-Groves unanimously overturned the injunction, ruling that the ordinances were not unconstitutionally vague and did not violate free speech.

“We stress that plaintiffs deny that they engage in nude dancing and erotic performances, thereby disavowing the First Amendment protections available for that conduct,” wrote Christen.

Following the decision, Hillbilly Hotties owner Jovanna Edge has said she will appeal and continue to battle the ordinances.

“The baristas are seeking to exercise their right to choose their work clothing,” says an attorney on behalf of the business. “The baristas sought to express positive messages of body confidence and female empowerment. This decision effectively tells women that the female body must be covered up and hidden, and that women must be protected from themselves.”