How should we respond to “bikini baristas” and similar businesses?

A bikini barista coffee kiosk in Hillsboro, Ore.
A bikini barista coffee kiosk in Hillsboro, Ore.

Several weeks ago, I was scrolling through Facebook and one of the “suggested pages” was for a company called Apostolic Outfitters. Their tagline, “Modest skirts at modest prices!” While I can appreciate honing in on one's target market, the core of any for-profit company is just that — to make a profit.  And I understand, a company cannot stay in business unless it makes a consistent profit. In this case, though, I have to wonder about the morality of using religious terms simply to turn one's ears or eyes to the advertisement.

On the other end of the spectrum, Spokane has recently found itself in controversy surrounding “bikini baristas” and questions surrounding the morality of these establishments. Women prepare drinks for clients. Money is exchanged for a product and the deal is complete. This occurs in taverns everyday. The difference, though, is that taverns have an age limit and (as I understand it) have to fall within a particular commercial zone.

And, though I have never been to a bikini barista coffee shop, I imagine that the women inside are of a particular body type and doubt that a grandmother-aged woman would ever be hired (along with a variety of other “types” of women). So is the service actually related to the coffee or is it, in fact, just a spectacle of nearly nude women?

I think we know the answer.

We recognize the objectification of women in these establishments — how should we respond? The simple truth is that I do not fully know. Legislation and zoning restrictions may be the ultimate way to go. Reforming health department standards may be another. The first line of offense, though, could be as simple as choosing to support other companies that offer their services modestly (and perhaps more honestly).

Personally, I am starting by continuing to support home-grown companies that are honest about their services (like Atticus or Chairs). There are numerous small businesses that do not need to pander to sexuality to serve a great product. Second, while I do not myself need any “modest” skirts, I will do what I can to support more middle-of-the-road businesses that cater to the needs and wants of the general population. I am pretty sure that most clothing stores sell clothing that serves a wide spectrum of modesty needs.

So, buy what you need and maybe even a little of what you want. But in doing so, choose companies that do not stoop to a slice of the population. Rather, choose to support businesses and companies that you would be proud to own.


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Eric Blauer

As a father who raised a beautiful daughter I remember plenty of times when my daughter returned frustrated from shopping trips, particularly for swim wear. So, when you say…

“I am pretty sure that most clothing stores sell clothing that serves a wide spectrum of modesty needs.”

…I’d have to disagree in part.

I often wonder if herds of overweight dudes in speedos were always showing up at those windows if the servers would ever get creeped out?

Isn’t this type of practice drawing the type of peeping toms that could also pose a safety issue for ladies doing this?

When I pass the prostitutes in my neighborhood and see the hard, hard looks or the meth wreck, I am never convinced that such practices are good for or community or those ladies. Bucks for service isn’t always a good thing. Capitalism isn’t a sacred truism.

A community needs to uphold shared common values for the sake of decency and the upbringing of families. East Central gets lots of city ‘zoning’ gifts and I can tell you that when its your streets, it matters more.

Thanks for bringing this up Kyle.

Joe Newby

“herds of overweight dudes in speedos”

That’s a picture I definitely do not want want in my head, speaking as an overweight dude…


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