The city’s rules are likely too vague to withstand legal scrutiny, U.S. District Court Judge Marsha Pechman wrote in her decision Monday.
“While some customers view the bikinis as ‘sexualized,’ to others, they convey particularized values, beliefs, ideas and opinions; namely body confidence and freedom of choice,” she said.
In modern history, clothing such as black armbands and pink knit hats have been used to convey political messages under the First Amendment, she said.
The judge issued a 13-page preliminary injunction while the baristas’ lawsuit continues. They are seeking to have the rules permanently thrown out.
Some terms in the city’s ordinances are “not well-defined or reasonably understandable,” Pechman said. The language also creates risks of subjective enforcement involving the measuring of body parts, she said.
The plaintiffs celebrated the news, saying they felt vindicated.
“Maybe they should think twice before taking away our rights,” barista Liberty Ziska said in a press release.
“Our clients would welcome the opportunity to work with the city to address any legitimate concerns about crime by targeting criminals rather than criminalizing what women wear at work and in public,” attorney Derek Newman said.
City officials said they were evaluating the ruling.
The city decided earlier this year that workers in coffee shops and other quick-service restaurants must wear a minimum of tank tops and shorts. That bans the bikini business model, which has been associated in Snohomish County with prostitution and people linked to organized crime.
Bikini stand owners and their employees have argued the rules put their civil rights at risk. They say they share positive messages about their bodies while they earn a living, and their outfits count as art.
The city says the businesses are a public nuisance. However, it already had suspended the new rules pending the decision on the preliminary injunction.
Additional hearings in the case have yet to be scheduled.