KIRO NEWSRADIO

Jack and Spike: Lattes to lingerie from a former bikini barista’s point-of-view

Apr 11, 2024, 1:27 PM | Updated: 1:55 pm

Photo: Amber, left, and Autumn working as bikini baristas in Ballard....

Amber, left, and Autumn working as bikini baristas in Ballard. (Photo: Stephanie Klein, MyNorthwest)

(Photo: Stephanie Klein, MyNorthwest)

The debate over dress codes for bikini baristas has resurfaced, igniting discussions about the intersection of coffee culture, scantily clad servers and workplace regulations. As the City of Everett takes another stab at defining appropriate attire for these unique coffee stands, strip clubs begin a new era of serving alcohol.

“Selena,” a former bikini barista and stripper, shed light on her unconventional career path. She once earned a staggering $80,000 annually by serving coffee in lingerie, working just two or three days a week.

Selena told “The Jack and Spike Show” on KIRO Newsradio the real money lies in tips, as the base salary remains at minimum wage. Her transition from stripper to barista was marked by both financial gain and a sense of novelty.

As a stripper, Selena said, “You’d be surprised how well-behaved men typically are.”

She explained that she didn’t make as much as a stripper because she had to pay the club when she danced.

“But it was fun,” she said.

Selena said she stopped stripping after a car accident and now works as an executive assistant.

Navigating the world of being a bikini barista

Selena also said life as a bikini barista was “a novelty. It’s fun. I very rarely had an awkward encounter,” she explained.

“Usually, people were just totally normal and friendly. Somebody’s in a car and you’re in a separate building,” Selena said. “It’s not sex work, either. You might brush hands when you pass them the coffee at most or hand them the money. But that’s about it.”

She said it’s up to the owners of these coffee shacks to hire good people and ensure they abide by the rules.

“The owners aren’t pressing for anything,” she said. “They just want the people because they’re making the money off the drinks. They’re not making the money off the girls.”

Everett votes: Dress codes for bikini baristas after settlement

Soon, the City of Everett will vote on potential changes to the bikini barista dress code. The Everett City Council must decide on the changes as part of a lawsuit settlement after a federal court ruling found the former dress code was unconstitutional.

Bikini baristas in the city could soon work in minimal clothing as long as they comply with the city’s lewd conduct dress requirement standards.

Selena also said wearing very little clothing in changing temperatures is difficult.

“Coffee stands are super, super hot. They’re small and not well insulated. But this machine is super hot,” she said. “We’re constantly moving around. There are always things to do, things to lift, and whatever. And yeah, it’s definitely getting really warm. It’s brutal in the summer.”

The ‘Strippers Bill of Rights’

Selena dispelled common misconceptions. While stripping offered higher earnings, the club’s fees cut into her profits.

Selena hasn’t read Senate Bill 6105, but she’s heard enough to form an opinion. The bill aims to limit fees charged to dancers and mandates emergency panic buttons.

Governor Jay Inslee signed the measure, which creates safer working conditions for people in the adult entertainment industry and makes it possible for clubs to sell alcohol.

“Strippers are workers, and they should be given the same rights and protections as any other labor force,” bill sponsor Senator Rebecca Saldaña of Seattle said in a news release. “If they are employed at a legal establishment in Washington, they deserve the safeguards that every worker is entitled to, including protection from exploitation, trafficking and abuse.”

‘Strippers Bill of Rights’ signed into law: Allows adult establishments to serve alcohol

The new law requires establishment employees to be trained to prevent sexual harassment, identify and report human trafficking, de-escalate conflict and provide first aid. It also mandates security workers on site, keypad codes in dressing rooms and panic buttons in places where entertainers may be alone with customers.

Selena said she always felt safe in clubs. She worked at a place in Tukwila that no longer exists.

She believes that allowing alcohol in these establishments is a “no-brainer.” Comparing Portland’s more accepting attitude toward strip clubs, Selena advocates for creating welcoming environments that defy stereotypes.

“It’s very different in Seattle than it is in Portland,” she said. “They have a more relaxed about the clubs and the dancers.”

In the end, strip clubs and the bikini barista industry remain a complex blend of laws, skin and individual stories. As Everett votes on dress codes, it’s clear this conversation is far from over.

Contributing: The Associated Press.

Bill Kaczaraba is a content editor at MyNorthwest. You can read his stories here. Follow Bill on X, formerly known as Twitter, here and email him here

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Jack and Spike: Lattes to lingerie from a former bikini barista’s point-of-view