Emma Dilemma, a makeup artist and bikini barista for the last year and a half, serves a drink to a customer while dressed as Lily Munster Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022, at XO Espresso on 41st Street in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Emma Dilemma, a makeup artist and bikini barista for the last year and a half, serves a drink to a customer while dressed as Lily Munster Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022, at XO Espresso on 41st Street in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

After long legal battle, Everett rewrites bikini barista dress code

Employees now have to follow the same lewd conduct laws as everyone else, after a judge ruled the old dress code unconstitutional.

EVERETT — After a 15-year battle, the bikini baristas of Everett now have a less stringent dress code following a judge’s 2022 ruling finding the city’s old dress code was unconstitutional.

Last year, the city paid $500,000 in a settlement to Jovanna Edge, owner of the Hillbilly Hotties espresso stand at 4043 Hoyt Ave., as well as several employees.

As a result of the settlement, the Everett City Council changed the original dress code Wednesday, requiring baristas to only abide by the city’s lewd conduct laws.

The council did not comment on the matter before or after their unanimous vote at Wednesday’s meeting.

Lewd conduct laws only require people to cover “minimum body areas” — genitals and female breasts — with an opaque material. The former, more restrictive dress code, approved in 2017, required employees of “quick service stands” to cover the upper and lower halves of their bodies with tanktops and shorts.

The settlement was the outcome of a lawsuit Edge and employees filed against Everett in 2017, alleging the dress code violated their First Amendment rights. They argued clothing is a means for self-expression, so dictating what they wore infringed on their rights.

“As a result of the amendment, the baristas will be able to dress just as they can anywhere else in the city,” assistant city attorney Ramsey Ramerman said at a council meeting this month.

Espresso stands and other establishments could face fines for not complying with lewd conduct laws. After three violations, they could risk losing their license, Ramerman added.

This move is among a larger movement dating back to 2009, when the city cracked down on bikini barista stands following allegations of sexual misconduct.

In 2013, an investigation resulted in the arrests of two espresso stand owners accused of prostitution and exploiting a minor.

When Edge took the city to court in 2017, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction banning Everett from enforcing its original dress code.

In 2019, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Everett, allowing the city to implement its dress code.

Edge and others bringing the suit filed to present it to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2020. The court did not hear the case. Instead it went back to a federal court in Seattle, where U.S. District Court Judge Ricardo S. Martinez ruled the dress code unconstitutional.

The new amendment aims to ensure owners adhere to lewd conduct laws prohibiting touching or exposing genitals, or any other public conduct considered indecent.

Ashley Nash: 425-339-3037; ashley.nash@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @ash_nash00.

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