Battle over skimpily-clad baristas continues

Pastor Pat O’Leary on Monday urged the Auburn City Council not to adopt a “we’ve-done-all-we-could attitude” about the Cowgirls Espresso stand on A Street Southeast and the scantily-clad baristas serving up the joe.

Local pastor urges changes to regulate Cowgirls Espresso

Pastor Pat O’Leary on Monday urged the Auburn City Council not to adopt a “we’ve-done-all-we-could attitude” about the Cowgirls Espresso stand on A Street Southeast and the scantily-clad baristas serving up the joe.

Despite a state law that says if it can be worn at the beach it can be worn in public, the pastor of the Auburn Foursquare Church on East Main Street insisted the battle is not over. He pressed councilmembers to act, asking them to consider what the nature of Cowgirls really is, rezone it, find some other place for it far from eyes that don’t want or need to see it. He said every person who drives down A street with the kids gets a face full of it every day of the week.

“Basically, it’s adult entertainment,” O’Leary said. “It’s not coffee; it has nothing to do with coffee. It should be called adult entertainment, it should be zoned adult entertainment and nothing less. I don’t know what in the world is so confusing about a thong and a set of pasties. I don’t know how anybody could possibly be confused about that. That is not clothing in anyone’s book. If the state government can’t figure that out, that’s too bad.

“I urge you to take this to heart. This is serious. It’s next to a church, it’s three blocks from another church, three blocks from a school. This could not be in a worse location,” he said. “Tucking it back in some industrial area wouldn’t make it right, but at least it wouldn’t be in the face of families. And there must be some way to look at this, identify what it is and zone it correctly. At least that.”

O’Leary added that his voicemail was filled with calls from people upset about the situation and wondering what the next step is.

Owner Lori Bowden introduced Cowgirls, the espresso stand painted like a jersey cow, six years ago in Seattle. She staffed it with baristas who serve coffee with a smile – and sometimes in a bikini. Bowden has since opened Cowgirls stands in Kent, Tukwila, Pacific, Lakewood, Everett, Monroe and Seattle.

Within days of the April opening at the site of the former Perky’s, Sara Byers, a 32-year-old mother of six, brought her own complaint to the council. She noted that the stand is only three blocks from Terminal Park Elementary School, where her 11-year-old son is a student.

While the hubbub around the Auburn Cowgirl’s stand appears to have quieted down since, the chatter around similar stands in Bonney Lake is at fever pitch. There a number of residents are upset about a recently-opened Cowgirls Espresso in their community and an established Hot Chicka Latte stand near State Route 410 and the Old Buckley Highway intersection. They plan to protest Saturday.

State AG contacted

Mayor Pete Lewis said when the City of Auburn sent pictures to the state Attorney General’s office showing girls at the Auburn stand wearing clothing that “couldn’t be even be worn on a beach,” the state responded that the city was not allowed to interfere or regulate the business in any way because it does not qualify as adult entertainment.

“We were told that we couldn’t do anything under Labor and Industries, nor could we do anything specific to it because of zoning,” Lewis said. “We have always asked that anybody that comes into contact with that be notified to make that same telephone call to the state Attorney General’s office who is stating right now that we have no ability to regulate it or pass a law that would be illegal at the time of its passage,” Lewis said.

“We need the help of the citizens, and we do need them to be talking to the Attorney General’s Office.”

Byers said Wednesday she called 911 to summon police in accordance with the mayor’s directive when she saw a barista clothed in a way she said did not meet the state standard.

“I caused trouble for them,” Byers said.

Robert Whale can be reached at 253-833-0218, ext. 5052, or rwhale@reporternewspapers.com

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