EDIT: The Sumner lewd conduct ordinance referenced below wouldn’t apply to exposed male breasts, just female breasts. Thanks to commenters who pointed out that I didn’t make this clear the first time around.
Sumner officials are taking precautions against any bikini baristas who may come to town.
The city council unanimously approved a lewd conduct ordinance Tuesday night that gives the city a way to cite baristas or other individuals who show too much skin, officials said.
“We want things just to stay within the character of the town,” Sumner Mayor Dave Enslow said after Tuesday’s council meeting.
So far, Sumner doesn’t have any bikini espresso stands within its city limits, nor have similar businesses applied for permits within the city, Sumner City Attorney Brett Vinson said.
But recent unlawful public exposure charges against a topless barista in unincorporated Pierce County made Sumner officials realize they had no law in place to address such behavior, Vinson said.
The Pierce County barista allegedly wore X-shaped pasties rather than a bikini top to cover her breasts.
“I didn’t want something to have something like what happened in Pierce County happen here in Sumner,” Vinson said. “We want to be more proactive than reactive when these situations occur.”
Before Tuesday, Sumner’s city code included provisions to address indecent exposure, but not lewd conduct.
The difference is that an indecent exposure charge requires a person to have “committed open and obscene exposure … knowing that such conduct is likely to cause reasonable affront or alarm,” state law says.
“That didn’t always match the bikini baristas, because a lot of times the people that were going to these places wanted to see the baristas,” Vinson said. “To prove knowledge is very difficult.”
Sumner’s new lewd conduct ordinance doesn’t require proof of knowledge to warrant a charge.
Sumner City Councilman Matt Richardson said it’s good for Sumner to act on the issue now, especially since so many other jurisdictions have been cracking down on bikini espresso stands. Council members didn’t want those businesses to seek refuge in Sumner because the city had no rules in place, he said.
“We kind of felt like we might get in the crosshairs at that point,” Richardson said. “It’s better to get this done before something happens.”
The ordinance will prohibit exposure of the genitals or any part of a female breast below the upper edge of the areola. Violators can be charged with a misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or up to 90 days in jail.
Owners of businesses where employees expose themselves can also be cited, the ordinance says.
Bodily exposure during plays, dance performances, and scientific lectures will still be allowed, as will nudity in locker rooms.
The lewd conduct rules will apply to all people who expose themselves unlawfully, not just bikini baristas.
The new ordinance goes into effect Saturday.