Local Officials Struggle Over Regulations for Bikini Baristas

Government Executive

By Leah Sottile

At 5:20 a.m., under a starless March sky, the arid Inland Northwest is cold—Canada cold. And save for four flimsy clapboard walls and a pair of sliding windows, a 20-year-old woman braves it in her underwear.

For early spring in Spokane Valley, Wabaristasshington, Tammy is awfully tan. But that’s a part of her job as a bikini barista: Smile a lot. Remember who gets an Americano and who gets an Irish Cream mocha. And, of course, wear a bikini in the dead of winter before sunrise.

“Bikini” is an overstatement of what Tammy (whose name has been changed to protect her identity) wears to work. Today is Wednesday, and on Wednesdays at Devil’s Brew Coffee, “we wear pink,” she says, “like Mean Girls.” She’s wearing a bubblegum-pink halter-top bra with scalloped edges, and lacy magenta underwear that makes little effort to cover her buttcheeks. Wednesdays can be a little slow—after all, they’re when the dress code at Devil’s Brew is most conservative. Tuesdays and Thursdays are “topless,” which means she’ll wear pasties and a thong as she works. Then, the line of jacked-up trucks will be out to the street. (One Spokane stand staffed by shirtless men, Hot Cup of Joe, appears to have gone out of business not long after it opened.)

Tammy, who wears a thick white cheerleader ribbon around her brown ponytail, is the manager at Devil’s Brew. An ex-Washington State sorority girl who lives with her Mormon parents, she says her mom told her to get a job at the coffee stand when she moved back home. “One guy last week was like, ‘Does your mom know you wear these clothes?’” she says. “I was like, ‘My mom comes here every morning!’” That’s no joke: At exactly 8 a.m. on the day I’m there, her mom pulls up to the window. As she drives away, Tammy calls after her, “Love you, Mom!”

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