Sexy coffee shops spread

As if Starbucks didn't have enough on its hands with that whole "Slutbucks" debacle.

Apparently, a new trend in coffee shops in the Pacific Northwest is beginning to spread like...well, let's just keep it classy and say "wildfire."

And though one of these bikini-barista joints, Cowgirls Espresso, only boasts 14 locations in Washington state so far, it's hard to miss the fact that there's a pretty ambitious-looking map of the entire continental U.S. on the Cowgirl Espresso locater on the Web site.

Other coffee shops, needless to say, are less than pleased.

"If you like nipples and third-degree burns, go for it," says barista Sara Barnfather. "But it's not my cup of tea."

"I'm not turning my place into a strip club because business is down," says R & R Espresso owner Ruth Oliver. "I'd rather close down."

On the other hand, those who've switched over to the T & A theme say they've seen business triple, and that it's swiftly becoming a matter of either playing by the new rules of the game or simply cashing out.

"We saw our male clientele dwindle to next to nothing," sexy-espresso convert John Ferguson says. "It's an 'If-you-can't-beat-'em,-join-'em' kind of thing."

And Grab 'N' Go Espresso owner Bill Wheeler is unapologetic for running a coffee stand on Highway 99 that employs young women who wear nothing but stickers over their nipples. (His 17-year-old daughter works there, too.)

"I brought a touch of Vegas back to Washington ," Wheeler says.

Obviously, burger joints went down this path a long time ago with Hooters. (As did airlines, come to think of it. At least for a short while.) Gritty pubs with questionable buffets have always included those that are more notable for employing women in skimpy outfits than for the quality of their grayish corned beef and cabbage. But nearly topless coffee seemed to come from out of left field. What could possibly come next?

Michael Y. Park is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. He studied medieval history as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago, and journalism as a graduate student at New York University. His stories have appeared in publications including The New York Times, the New York Post, and the Toronto Globe and Mail.


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