EVERETT — Five women recently accused of engaging in prostitution at an Everett bikini espresso stand are not Bill Wheeler’s first Grab-n-Go baristas to be in trouble with the law.
Two baristas were charged earlier this month with indecent exposure outside the Grab-n-Go Espresso stand at 11323 Highway 99, in a county area south of Everett. The women are accused of showing customers more skin than permitted under Snohomish County’s ordinance, according to court documents.
Five baristas at Wheeler’s stand at 8015 Broadway in Everett were charged Wednesday with multiple counts of prostitution and violating the city’s adult entertainment ordinance following a two-month undercover police investigation.
Those baristas, whose ages range from 18 to 24, are accused of stripping off their undergarments and flashing customers. Everett police also reported witnessing the women charge customers up to $80 to touch their exposed private parts.
Wheeler, who owns at least four stands around the county, said the charges against the baristas at his stand in the city were made up to push through Everett City Council’s agenda to ban bikini espresso huts.
He also called the earlier charges against two baristas at his other stand bogus. The sheriff’s office is on a witch hunt, Wheeler said.
“There was nothing indecent on either of them,” he said.
The first incident was reported July 10 by a driver passing by the stand across from the Wal-Mart on Highway 99. She told Snohomish County sheriff’s deputies a barista in pasties and a thong was shaking her exposed buttocks toward the highway.
The witness told police she isn’t a prude, but the barista’s behavior and clothing were offensive.
The deputy questioned the barista, who at the time was wearing pasties and leather-type pants that exposed her buttocks from the waist down. She denied shaking her backside at the highway. The Snohomish woman, 26, pleaded not guilty to the charge Thursday in Everett District Court.
Another barista, 20, also denied an allegation of indecent exposure. That charge was made after a man complained to deputies July 31 that he hadn’t received 75 cents owed to him after paying for his coffee and giving the barista a $2 tip.
He told police it was his third visit to the stand. Each time he hadn’t received his change.
This time when he asked for the change, the barista insisted that her boss didn’t provide coins to give to the customers, a deputy wrote. The man told deputies the barista took 50 cents out of her tip jar and threw it at him, causing him to drop his coffee, court papers said.
The man told police he visited the stand just to see the baristas but was upset that they would automatically keep his change even after he gave them a $2 tip, according to the police report.
He told the deputy the barista’s nipples could be seen through her pasties. The man told the deputy it was the first time he’d seen that much of a barista at the stand, court papers said.
The Everett woman was arrested and booked into jail. She bailed out and later pleaded not guilty to the charge.
Wheeler said a “rogue deputy” harassed the women by asking them to stand up, turn around and bend over so he could measure if their clothing met decency standards. He also said the woman who complained on July 10 harassed the barista by driving up and down the street. He said the barista reported the harassment to police but they ignored her.
“I know for a fact these two girls aren’t guilty of anything and when you get to court you will find that out,” he said.
Wheeler said nothing illegal involving the baristas has ever happened at his espresso stands.
His baristas sign an agreement guaranteeing that they will not behave inappropriately, he said.
Wheeler called The Herald’s coverage of complaints about his stands hypocritical and one-sided. More attention should be focused on real problems such as drunken drivers, murderers and “hookers walking down Evergreen Way,” he said.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463, email@example.com.