By Debra Smith<I> </I>Herald Writer
EVERETT — The city released photos Thursday that show baristas who worked at an Everett espresso stand engaged in sexually explicit acts so vulgar a city spokeswoman said she was uncomfortable releasing them.
The 17 photos were taken by Everett police detectives working undercover during a two-month investigation last summer. They were snapped at the Grab-n-Go Espresso stand at 8015 Broadway. Five women who worked at the stand later were charged with prostitution.
Officials released the photographs Thursday under public records laws.
When the prostitution investigation came to light, the stand owner denied knowledge of any illegal activity. Some in the community, including customers at the stands, insisted there was nothing more risque taking place than women in swimsuits selling coffee.
Everett officials wanted it made clear that they are “uncomfortable being the ones to deliver these explicit photographs,” said Kate Reardon, city spokeswoman. The city did so to comply with state law.
At least three women can be identified in the photos, which show women engaging in sexually explicit behavior.
In one photo, a barista is squatting in the drive-through window of the stand with her legs spread apart while wearing crotchless panties. In another, a different woman wearing a bikini is squatting in a window and pulling aside the bathing suit bottom to reveal her genitals.
In other photos, a barista inside the stand is exposing her pubic area while another woman licks whipped cream that was sprayed there. Several photos show a woman bent over inside the stand with her bare rear facing the camera.
Bill Wheeler, the owner of four Grab-n-Go Espresso stands, said Thursday the photos were old news.
He said the media were picking on the women. He also offered some profanity-laced comments directed at The Herald.
“These girls may have made a mistake,” he said. “They have been punished for their bad judgment.”
The women’s prostitution cases are scheduled for a hearing Feb. 11 at Everett Municipal Court. If the matter isn’t resolved at the hearing, a jury trial has been set for Feb. 22.
The baristas filed a motion in November to stop the city from releasing the photographs, after the city notified them they would be released under the state public records law, said Ramsey Ramerman, a city attorney.
Snohomish County Superior Court Judge David Kurtz ruled Tuesday that the photos were not exempt from disclosure under public records law and must be released.
Kris McLeod last year reported observing baristas performing sexually explicit acts at another Grab-n-Go stand near Murphy’s Corner just across Everett city limits. Snohomish County sheriff’s deputies last year arrested some Grab-n-Go employees for alleged misconduct.
McLeod said the photos from the Everett investigation prove she and others were telling the truth about barista misbehavior. She and other people set up a Web site protesting the stands.
The coffee hut in front of her workplace, also owned by Wheeler, is now boarded up after Wheeler made the stand family-friendly by requiring the women to wear more clothes.
“Sometimes you just have to stand up for what you think is right,” McLeod said. “We spoke the truth. We didn’t make anything up.”
At the Grab-n-Go stand on Broadway in south Everett, the one featured in the police photographs, business remained brisk. Thursday evening, a woman in a black bikini served coffee to customers waiting in a line of vehicles.
The release of the police photos came on the same day tougher lewd conduct and licensing laws took effect in unincorporated Snohomish County. That law holds business owners and managers accountable for allowing lewd conduct.
The county rules don’t apply to adult-themed espresso stands inside city limits. City leaders across the county have been struggling with how to deal with balancing the rights of business owners with complaints from people about coffee stands with barely dressed baristas.
In Everett, city leaders in October revised the lewd conduct law. The law doesn’t bar a woman from wearing pasties, or little more than a sheer top, in public, as long as her nipples and areolas are covered.
McLeod said her grass-roots organization plans to approach Everett leaders to urge them to pass even tougher laws. She and others also are working with state legislators.
Diana Hefley, Noah Haglund and Oscar Halpert contributed to this report.