A coffee shop in Washington has been luring customers with its very controversial unique selling point — a bikini dress code for staff.
Bikini Beans Espresso, which also has branches in Arizona, employs baristas to make coffee in bikinis or underwear, while some have opted for just strategically-placed stickers to preserve their modesty.
The shop, owned by entrepreneur Carlie Jo, has been a huge success, earning a five-star rating on Yelp and tens of thousands of followers on its social media accounts.
While a bikini dress code may seem like a step backwards for gender equality, the shop’s owners insist it’s to empower women.
On its website, the coffee chain proudly proclaims: “As the first bikini barista shop in Arizona, we want to empower women to be, and feel good about, themselves.”
Unsurprisingly, the business model appears to be most appealing to men, with several taking to the Facebook to compliment its beautiful staff.
But not everyone is convinced, including city councilor, Mike Fagan, who unsuccessfully tried to impose limitations on bikini barista stands.
According to Fagan, the stand promotes the exploitation of women.
Speaking in a video published on the YouTube channel for the restaurant review website Zagat, he said: “It should be all about the coffee and not about the body.
“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 added: “I don’t want to pound on the ‘It’s for the children’ argument, but that is what it’s all about.”
A local resident and mother-of-four Kimberly Curry agreed.
She told Zagat she was shocked when she and her children first caught sight of the scantily-clad baristas on the way back from the cinema.
“The problem wasn’t as much what they saw,” she said. “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.
“I’m all for people doing what they want to do. But I don’t want it imposed on my family.”
However, staff member Brittany Paterson told People that the scantily clad staff do not put off customers with children.
“I have full families that come in that love me,” she said. “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.”