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Bremerton, Chicagoland Barista's Coffee spar over dress code
Wardrobe choice at coffee stand leads to disputed city action.
A message on Chicagoland Barista’s Coffee owner Chris Tibbs’ cell phone from the city of Bremerton’s Department of Community Development (DCD) on Aug. 6 sent Tibbs scrambling to ensure his coffee stand at 601 Naval Ave. would remain open and his baristas wouldn’t be arrested for violating city codes.
According to Tibbs, the message said Bremerton police officers were on their way to arrest him and his baristas for being in violation of the city’s regulations pertaining to “exotic entertainment” after DCD received “numerous complaints” about his employees wearing pasties on their chests.
“This isn’t Espresso Gone Wild,” Tibbs said, referring to the espresso stand in Gorst, which gained notoriety because employees wear small pasties. “The pasties covered more than the bikini tops,” he added.
The pasties, which were as big as a man’s hand, were the idea of the stand’s employees.
“I sell coffee and great service,” he said, noting that he often brings his 3-year-old niece to the business, so he ensures that nothing at the stand would be offensive to her and that Naval Avenue Elementary School is just down the street.
While acknowledging that all of his employees are attractive, Tibbs said he is committed to not only running a successful business but giving back to the community.
“They (DCD staff) called me a ‘smut peddler,’ and they said it was personal,” Tibbs said of his Aug. 6 encounter at the Norm Dicks Government Center to attempt to resolve the issue without taking legal action.
After the incident, Tibbs said his baristas have now gone back to wearing bikini tops and as of Wednesday afternoon there haven’t been any further run-ins with the city.
However, an Aug. 7 press release from the Bremerton Police Department painted an entirely different picture of the Aug. 6 incident.
In the news release, it states, “Yesterday, Aug. 6, the city received several complaints regarding Barista’s Chicagoland Café, 601 Naval Ave., alleging inappropriate dress by its employees. More specifically, that the baristas were serving beverages wearing pasties. Two police officers independently observed and confirmed these reports. Upon review by the city attorney, it was determined that this activity is a violation of the Bremerton Municipal Code 9A.44.070 which provides:
(a) (1) A person is guilty of lewd conduct if he intentionally performs a lewd act in a public place or at a place and under circumstances where such act could be observed by the public.
(2) The owner or operator of premises open to the public is guilty of a misdemeanor if he intentionally permits lewd conduct in a public place under his control.
(b) “Lewd act” means:
(1) Public exposure of one’s genitals, buttocks or any portion of the female breast below the top of the areola.
Section 9A.04.080 of the BMC designates “a violation of this section of the criminal code as a misdemeanor by the person performing the lewd act, the operator of the business and the owner of the property on which the lewd act is performed.”
The news release concluded by stating that no citations have been issued and the city has not taken any steps to close the business.
“The city has been informed that the business is still open and that the baristas are now wearing bikinis or other similar attire which is not in violation of any city code,” the news release stated.
An inquiry to the DCD about the regulations pertaining to coffee stands and similar businesses found that the applicant is required to obtain a business license and a tenant improvement permit, according to Assistant DCD Director JoAnn Vidinhar.
“In the review of these requirements the city will look to see if the property is appropriately zoned for the proposed business, compliance with parking regulations and building codes,” Vidinhar said.
The zoning code regulates these types of uses under “restaurant and drinking places” which are typically allowed in commercial zones, she said. “However, uses with drive-through lanes are limited in the commercial zones,” she said. “For example the city’s Neighborhood Center Core and District Center Core prohibit drive-through lanes.”
When it comes to code enforcement, Vidinhar said the city takes action on all code enforcement infractions and the Kitsap County Health Department gets involved if the citation deals with health and sanitation issues.
As for the perception that the city is taking a proactive approach to monitoring coffee stands, Vidinhar said, “The city is not taking a proactive approach to monitor coffee stands nor any other type of business. The city only takes corrective action once a complaint is received.”