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Bikini barista coffee stand is brewing for Freeland

A company based in another state plans to open an espresso stand in Freeland featuring scantily clad women baristas, according to the self-described employee recruiter for the venture.

An ad appeared online on craigslist Wednesday advertising for “Bikini Baristas” for part-time work at the proposed stand.

“We are looking for professional girls and women with espresso experience,” the ad said. “We are looking to hire long-term.” Submission of personal photos was encouraged.

“I know some don’t want to send those, so we can discuss outfits during the interview process,” the ad said. Applicants were encouraged to contact “Brian” by e-mail.

“It’s a provocative business, but not a dirty business,” said the recruiter who posted the ad and who identified himself as Brian, but who declined to give his last name. “That’s not what they intend it to be.”

He said Friday that the company has a couple of possible downtown Freeland locations in mind, “but they’re not 100-percent sure yet.”

He said the company hopes to open the business “in a couple of months, if everything goes smoothly.”

“If there are any problems, we’ll stay on the mainland,” he added.

The recruiter said the proposal is an independent venture not tied to a franchise or chain operation. He said he has no other connection to the group other than to recruit possible employees.

He said the company isn’t based in Washington, but declined to identify its location.

“I’m not comfortable providing any other information,” he said.

He did say, however, that the employees of the espresso stand wouldn’t necessarily be wearing bikinis.

“You have to put that in the ad, or you wouldn’t get any applications,” he said. He didn’t discuss the wisdom of serving hot coffee while wearing few clothes.

As for submittals, he added: “We’ve had plenty so far, but we’re not doing anything with them yet. It’s just in the beginning stages.”

Official reaction from the Freeland business community was wait-and-see.

“In general, I don’t believe this is something that the business community would necessarily welcome,” Chet Ross, president of the Freeland Area Chamber of Commerce, said Friday.

“But since we’re not a city yet, we have no codes to address these things,” he added. “That’s up to the county.”

“This is the first we’ve heard about it,” Richard Davis, chamber vice president, said Friday. “We may discuss it at our meeting next week. I think it would be an interesting discussion.”

“We’d encourage them to join the chamber,” Leanne Finlay, a chamber board member, added Friday. “Of course, we’re a fully clothed chamber.”

“I wish them the best of luck,” Finlay added. “I can’t even imagine it would be a going concern.”

Coffee stands featuring scantily clad young women employees have sprouted throughout Puget Sound.

According to a Web site that features a directory of such establishments, there are 58 businesses in 100 locations from Bellingham to Olympia.

“Seattle is at the forefront of the bikini barista phenomena that is sweeping across the world, and it all started right here,” said the Web site, Bikini-Baristas.com.

Similar businesses, however, have run into opposition in several Puget Sound communities, after undercover investigators detailed instances of lewd behavior and even prostitution.

Federal Way is considering amending its city code to limit the amount of skin that bikini baristas, and other individuals, can publicly display. In Sumner, a lewd-conduct ordinance was passed authorizing citations for people showing too much skin in public.

In South Hill, a 19-year-old woman was arrested in 2009 for indecent exposure during her coffee stand’s “pastie Wednesday.”

In Bonney Lake, owners of a coffee stand installed a Webcam and sold online subscriptions to watch thinly clad baristas serve customers and move around inside the stand.

In Everett last year, five bikini baristas were charged with prostitution. In late 2009, Snohomish County passed ordinances holding employers responsible for lewd acts, and requiring the stands to obtain adult entertainment licenses.

Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks said Friday that the county has no ordinances governing morality other than criminal statutes applying to such things as indecent exposure.

While the city of Oak Harbor has moved to regulate adult entertainment businesses, the county has yet to adopt similar regulations.

“You can’t ban it altogether, but you can put certain regulations and license requirements on it,” Banks said. “If they’re clothed, there’s not much you can do to regulate it unless they’re exposing themselves.”

Banks expressed skepticism about the idea of opening a bikini barista coffee stand in Freeland.

“I don’t know if it would be a very successful business on Whidbey, but time will tell,” he said, adding: “It’s a sad commentary on society if that’s what you need to get through the day.”

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