Bikini barista outrage nets change

FOREST GROVE, Ore. (KOIN) — Things boiled over at a city council meeting Monday night in Forest Grove — as the fight over nearly-naked, pasties-clad baristas continues.

The owner of the coffee stand now says that — after all the outrage — her employees will stay away from pasties, at least for now, at her Forest Grove Dream Girl Espresso location.

A bikini barista at Dream Girl Espresso in Forest Grove, Aug. 9, 2013 (KOIN 6 News)
A bikini barista at Dream Girl Espresso in Forest Grove, Aug. 9, 2013. (KOIN 6 News)

“We do not sell sex; we serve coffee,” said Owner Leah Sizemore at Monday night’s meeting. “Any rhetoric like this is slanderous to me and my employees.”

At Monday night’s council meeting, people opposed to the drive-thru shop called it too much nudity too close to too many homes.

“When I witnessed the girls working at the coffee cart they were wearing less than bikinis, a lot less,” testified Cecile Doyle.

The drive-thru was described as a public nuisance, harmful to existing businesses and a deterrent to new business. But Sizemore has told KOIN 6 News her drive-thru location at 19th and Elm — where so many kids are nearby — was unavoidable. Meanwhile, she said business is doing well.

Nineteen-year-old Tori Walker, who is one of the baristas, told KOIN 6 News her work is  a good way for a young woman to make a living. Hanky panky with customers, she said, is a no no.

“The owners of the company,” Walker said, “they made it very clear that is not allowed — and if that happened that person would be terminated.”

However, mom Chris Coco said that about a month ago her daughter came to her distressed after going to a three-hour interview at a Dream Girl location in Hillsboro. Coco said her daughter wrote a letter for her to read to city council.

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FILE – The tip container at Dream Girl Espresso in Forest Grove, Ore. (KOIN 6 News)

In that letter the 18-year-old claimed the manager asked her what her sexual preference was and if she liked men. She also writes she was told she could make $100 a day, told to flirt more, and asked if she had a boyfriend who would get in the way.

Sizemore denies at least some of these claims.

“What do you want me to say to that?” she told KOIN 6 News before Monday night’s council meeting. “That’s a false accusation. … We see them serve customers, and notice if they’re comfortable or not, and that’s the gist of it.”

The Forest Grove stand opened in late July. KOIN 6 News has learned the owner applied for a business license under the name DG LLC, instead of Dream Girl Espresso.

An attorney told KOIN 6 News the right to wear pasties is not covered under the First Amendment if a person is working while wearing them. Under commercial law, a business cannot use nudity — and that includes the buttocks — for advertising purposes. However, the attorney said people can legally work in lingerie as long as they’re not publicly displaying nudity or advertising sex.

At the end of Monday night’s council meeting, the city attorney laid down the law — telling critics there is well-established Oregon law on this type of matter. When it comes to nudity being a form of expression, which he says is what this is, it’s not only legal but it’s likely to withstand a legal challenge.

“I know there are a lot of laws protecting business owners,” said Laura Hale, who testified against the coffee stand Monday night. “But this is not what she got a license to do — she stuffed this right in our face.”

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Citizens gather at the Forest Grove City Council session Aug. 12, 2013 — many donned in red and prepared to address the issue of a relatively new bikini barista coffee stop within city limits that has since faced public outcry. (KOIN 6 News, Gary Kahne)

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