By Jed Vaughn, reporting from Spokane Washington
As spring takes hold and the warm weather starts to reappear in the Northwest, hot coffee orders begin to morph to iced coffee. Some local drive-up coffee stands are offering a dose of hot… regardless of the temperature of your favorite caffeinated beverage.
In Hillyard, a Northeast Spokane community in Eastern Washington, coffee is being promoted using a sign with a strip club style image of a barista. The drive-up Java shack named 2nd Base Lingerie Espresso is front and center in the local news and the community is reacting. In a viewer poll recently conducted by KHQ, 71% think the sign and barista has gone too far.
According to KHQ, a local television station, the school district in the area went so far as to change a bus route in an effort to avoid exposing young children to the sign. It wasn’t the first time this happened. In 2013, a Spokane Valley school district had done the same thing. Even though there is nothing illegal about the sign according to a local city councilman, there would have been if the bus route still passed by it.
Sex sells… and there’s overwhelming evidence that the phenomenon holds true for latte, Americano, and espresso drinks regardless of gender. Male baristas wearing not much more than a friendly smile are also in the mix. According to ABC News, Sarah Birnel, who owned three bikini baristas, said sales doubled after implementing the strategy.
Big hitters in the media scene including Fox News, ABC, and NBC, have all covered the Spokane bikini baristas. Maxim Magazine even got in on the action.
The signs are hard to miss. Once at the window they’ll make and serve the coffee with a view that might have a cover charge at the door in a different type of venue.
These drive-up coffee stands in the Spokane area have raised flags in City Hall since they became prevalent in 2013. Controversy stirred and protesters began to appear in the streets. They were calling on city hall to address the issue. In November of 2013 the council unanimously approved an ordinance in the City of Spokane Valley summarized here by Nina Culver of the Spokesman Review newspaper:
“SPOKANE VALLEY” — The Spokane Valley City Council unanimously approved an ordinance Tuesday that identifies what body parts cannot be exposed in public.
The ordinance was created after dozens of complaints were received about a bikini coffee stand just two doors down from City Hall that advertised topless Tuesdays and Thursdays. On those days the baristas wore no more than a G-string and pasties.
Councilman Arne Woodard said that the turning point for him was learning that the Central Valley School District had rerouted school buses to avoid the coffee stand.
The rulings by the council seem to address the concerns of local citizens. No “surprises” for unexpecting coffee connoisseurs and limitations on how far the “reveal” can go are the two main concerns addressed.
Bare Beans, Busty’s Top Espresso, Devils Brew, and 2nd Base Lingerie Espresso are a few of the bikini barista drive-ups in Spokane.
The allure of friendly, shapely, and exposed baristas seems to have etched a place in the drive-through coffee market here in Washington. Hundreds of drive-through java stations all appear to be thriving in the market. Some do better than others, but few close down for lack of business, regardless of how the staff is dressed.
A great cup of coffee has nothing to do with what the server happens to be wearing… or not wearing. Apparently, for many, choosing which place to get that great cup of coffee just might.
Coffee lovers, what’s your take on this? Let us know by commenting here.