A Washington womanwas recently arrestedfor operating coffee shops with baristas who allegedly performed sex acts in return for tips.
Carmelo Panico, 52, owns several cafes in the Seattle area, including Java Juggs Espresso, Twin Peaks, Bella Butterscotch, and the Hot Spot. They are a few of the many so-called “bikini barista” coffee shops that have been multiplying in the Northwest in recent years.
As their names suggest, the shops feature scantily clad women working espresso machines. Employees’ dress codes include bikinis, lingerie, and various themed costumes.
The first bikini barista shop opened in the Washington area more than a decade ago. There are now more than 130 adult-themed coffee shops operating in Washington, Oregon and Idaho, according to the Wall Street Journal.
At Java Juggs, coffee drinks started at $US6. But for another $US14, baristas would allegedly flash their breasts or genitals to customers, according to charging documents reviewed by the Associated Press.
A customer described the system in a Yelp review, saying,”[The barista] conversed while making my coffee and then said for $US20.00 she would show me ‘everything’ and get naked,” the customer wrote. “I told her that was an expensive cup of coffee and asked what she’d show me for $US5.00. She showed me plenty.”
One of Panico’s baristas told investigators she made more than a half a million dollars working one of the coffee stands.
The bikini barista business is just as lucrative for the owners, according to Sarah Birnel, who owns three outlets in Washington called Devil’s Brew Coffee Stand.
In an interview with ABC News, she claimed that her shops make twice as much money as traditional coffee outlets. Her baristas are told to wear “whatever’s legal” but “any kind of provocative behaviour is not ok,” she said.
Former male stripper Chris Mullins decided to open an all-male version in February in Spokane, Washington. At Hot Cup of Joe, shirtless men serve coffee instead of women in bikinis.
“I’ve been in the adult entertainment industry for a few years, and I have a lot of friends who are bikini baristas,” Mullins told ABC News. “Being in this industry I kind of know that women have been screaming for something like this, especially with the recent Hollywood ‘Magic Mike’-type craze. Well, now they have a way to see it in person, plus they can get a great cup of coffee while doing it.”
The proliferation of bikini barista shops across the Northwest has prompted some cities to pass ordinances regulating employees’ attire. Spokane Valley’s City Council, for example, banned workers from wearing pasties, or sticky nipple covers, according to the Journal.
Restaurants featuring nearly nude women are also exploding.
Earlier this year, we wrote about how business at “breastaurants” is outperforming the food services industry. One of the most popular chains, called Tilted Kilt, saw sales grow 18% to $US196 million last year compared to the previous year, according to Technomic. The company currently has 94 locations, up from 14 in 2008.
Rival Twin Peaks’ sales grew 68% to $US165 million over the same time period, as the chain nearly doubled its locations.
By comparison, the entire restaurant industry’s sales grew 4% in 2013, according to the National Restaurant Association.
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