By Diana Hefley Herald Writer
EVERETT — Five baristas are accused of engaging in prostitution at an Everett bikini espresso stand following a two-month undercover police investigation into complaints that the women were selling more than coffee.
Detectives say the women were charging up to $80 to strip down and flash customers while fixing lattes and mochas.
Investigators saw the women expose their crotches, lick whipped cream off their co-workers’ private parts and pose naked for pictures inside the Grab-n-Go Espresso stand on Broadway, according to police reports obtained by The Herald on Wednesday.
Detectives also witnessed some of the women charge customers to touch their bare breasts and naked buttocks. Touching of that kind, for pay, falls under the city’s definition of prostitution.
The women, ages 18 to 24, were charged Wednesday with multiple counts of prostitution and violating the city’s adult entertainment ordinance, both misdemeanors, Everett police Sgt. Robert Goetz said.
No arrests have been made. The women are expected to be arraigned in Everett Municipal Court in a few weeks.
Bill Wheeler, the owner of the stands, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
The investigation began in mid-July after police heard a stream of complaints about baristas baring too much.
Everett police during the past year had received more than 40 complaints about various bikini coffee stands around the Everett area. Many of the complaints focused on women who were exposing their breasts, genitals or buttocks, according to police reports.
The department decided to investigate the Grab-n-Go Espresso — the business generating the most complaints, Goetz said.
Some of the complaints alleged that some baristas at the Everett coffee hut and three other Grab-n-Go Espresso stands in unincorporated Snohomish County were engaging in prostitution, an Everett police detective wrote in his reports.
Sheriff’s deputies also have received complaints about the Grab-n-Go Espresso south of Silver Lake. Employees of nearby businesses have complained that the stand is a haven for lewd behavior. None of those complaints have resulted in any criminal charges, sheriff’s spokeswoman Rebecca Hover said.
Everett police focused their investigation on the stand within the city limits, Goetz said.
“This was about alleged conduct, not about what the women were wearing,” he said. “They could have been wearing parkas and if they continued to conduct themselves that way, we still would have filed the criminal charges.”
Undercover detectives began posing as customers in mid-July.
An Everett detective took a city prosecutor to the stand to witness firsthand the activities of the baristas. During that visit, two women allegedly engaged in a “whipped cream show,” in which they sprayed whipped cream on each other and licked it off.
On a second visit, a detective was told he couldn’t have a mocha because the stand was out of chocolate. He also was told he couldn’t order a small drink because they only served 20-ounce beverages.
The barista told him that for $20, she and the other barista would give him a show. He paid and they bared their breasts and pulled down their undergarments, police reports said.
The detective noted that stand is about 30 yards off the roadway and about 10 feet lower than the road level, making it easy to see into the business from the street. During the undercover operation, traffic was regularly stopped in front of the stand because of nearby construction, according to investigators.
Detectives say the women also charged customers to play “basketball” — a game in which customers were allowed to throw waded up money at women who caught the money in their underpants.
Investigators also witnessed women strip down and perch on the drive-thru window ledge in full view of passing cars. The five women also allowed customers, who paid extra, to grab their breasts and buttocks, police allege.
“We understand why citizens in our community are extremely upset about the conduct and based on what our detectives found in their investigation, it’s pretty clear to see why,” Goetz said.
Everett police have closed their investigation into the stand. They will continue to investigate any new complaints about prostitution at espresso stands or any location in the city, Goetz said.
Meanwhile, the City Council is expected to decide next week whether to change the city’s lewd conduct ordinance to include espresso stands.
The proposed change, which was part of a regular review of city codes, would not prevent baristas from wearing bikinis, city spokeswoman Kate Reardon said. It also still would be legal for women to wear pasties and sheer undergarments as long as their nipples and areolas are covered.
Police say their investigation was prompted by people’s complaints and separate from any review of city ordinances being considered by city lawmakers.
“We were going forward with our investigation no matter what was going on with the council,” Goetz said.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463, firstname.lastname@example.org.