The Case of the Bikini-Clad Baristas Servers at Java Juggs Are Dishing Up a Lesson in Free Speech

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), October 5, 2017 | Go to article overview

The Case of the Bikini-Clad Baristas Servers at Java Juggs Are Dishing Up a Lesson in Free Speech


SEATTLE

Amazon, which has made this city the epicenter of a retailing revolution, is not the Northwest's only commercial disrupter. In the nearby city of Everett, Liberty Ziska and some other bikini baristas, giving new meaning to coffee as a stimulant, have provoked the city council to pass, unanimously, ordinances requiring baristas to be less nearly naked when they work. The baristas, in turn, have hired a lawyer and made an argument that is germane to current disputes about freedom of speech. Their argument, they might be surprised to learn, is Aristotelian. Sort of.

Everett has not succumbed to Pecksniffian Comstockery: The police chief and city attorney allege that bikini barista stands attract a clientele that sometimes behaves badly, and that some of the baristas do, too. The city reports "a proliferation of crimes of a sexual nature occurring at bikini barista stands," which it primly suggests has something to do with "the minimalistic nature of the clothing worn by baristas."

Seattle's ABC affiliate reports that "in 2014, the owner of Java Juggs pleaded guilty to running a brothel out of several stands." Henceforth, the baristas must wear at least shorts and tank tops.

The new dress code cannot be faulted for vagueness. Indeed, it has notable specificity (it mentions the "bottom one-half of the anal cleft" and is even more detailed about breasts) that has the baristas incensed about the examinations and anatomical measurements that law enforcement might require.

What makes this a matter of more than mere ribaldry is that the baristas have unlimbered heavy constitutional artillery. They fire it in ways pertinent to the manner in which freedom of speech is debated and defended - or not - where it is most important and most besieged: on campuses. The baristas say:

The ordinances banning bikinis violate the First Amendment because they are "content-based and viewpoint-based restrictions" that "impermissibly burden and chill" their freedom to "convey their messages of female empowerment, positive body image" and other things. Their bikinis are "a branding message" communicating "approachability and friendliness." The ordinances regulate only speech "common and fundamental" at bikini barista stands, targeting them "because Everett does not agree with their message" and restricting "channels of communication."

Ms. Ziska says that if clothing covers the tattoos on her legs, arms, wrists, back, neck and hips she cannot have such interesting conversations with customers. Brittany Giazzi and Leah Humphrey argue similarly about their piercings and scars, respectively. …

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