More from ‘Sexpresso’ hearingAugust 3rd, 2011 by brynn grimley
When writing a meeting on deadline for the next day’s paper you don’t always get the chance to include everything you want in a story because of time and space constraints.
That was the case last night as I tried to write a story on the Planning Commission public hearing regarding “sexpresso” coffee stands.
With roughly 30 people testifying, not every comment made it in the story. Many of the speakers repeated those that went before them, so I summarized the concerns.
I wanted to follow up today with more quotes from last night’s meeting so those who weren’t there could get a feel of what was said.
But first a little background on the “sexpresso” stands in Kitsap. In February 2010 I wrote about whether Kitsap County commissioners would follow the direction of city of Bremerton leaders and Mason and Snohomish county commissioners and implement a lewd-conduct ordinance.
In Snohomish after a handful of baristas faced prostitution charges, the commissioners voted to strengthen the county’s lewd-conduct ordinance. Their revised ordinance requires baristas to at least wear bikinis.
At the time Kitsap County commissioners stayed out of the debate on the grounds that no laws were being violated and there wasn’t much they could do.
“We have a lot of priorities right now and this isn’t one of them,” Commissioner Josh Brown said at the time. “Counties don’t have the regulatory authority that cities do. We can’t exactly restrict the businesses that are coming into our county like cities can.”
By April 2011 the board changed its position largely because the stands, previously clustered in the commercial area of Gorst, spread to more residential areas like East Bremerton. Causing a greater cause for concern, Brown said in April.
And while the earlier sexpresso stands only promised pasties a couple times a week, the trend was moving to wearing them every day. This change prompted commissioners to ask Department of Community Develop director Larry Keeton to look into the county’s options for regulating clothing inside the businesses.
It should be noted that one of the stands along Highway 303 does not have baristas in pasties but instead bikinis, according to the owner. It should also be noted the stand along 303 near its intersection with Riddell Road has been removed. That leaves Fantasy Espresso along Highway 303 and Espresso Gone Crazy and Espresso Gone Crazy II in Gorst as the stands promoting women in pasties.
In his presentation before the Planning Commission Tuesday, Keeton said his department didn’t have a recommendation for what planners felt was the best solution. Instead he wanted public comment to guide the commission.
All but six people that testified supported the county’s proposal to create a lewd conduct ordinance that would regulate clothing in public places. This includes places like public beaches, parks or lakes.
That means people wearing skimpy swimsuits could face a civil penalty if someone calls 911 to report what they think is a violation the lewd conduct ordinance.
Two people said they preferred an option that would designate the stands as adult entertainment and require someone to check identification to make sure customers are at least 18 years old. This option would also require businesses to clearly mark that they are adult entertainment, and require them to remove female silhouettes from signs.
Finally there were four people that opposed regulations altogether. That included two attorneys representing two espresso stand owners; one man who supports the stands and what they offer; and another man who said he didn’t necessarily support the stands, but felt the county was overstepping it’s role by regulating a moral issue.
After the hearing attorneys Kenneth Bagwell and Philip Havers said their clients continue to cooperate with the county and respond to requests to put up screening to prevent inadvertent viewing of women in the stands from the road.
Havers told planning commissioners his clients were willing to put up additional screening.
If the stands are blocked from the road, Havers didn’t think a lewd conduct ordinance could be enforced because people would have to go out of their way to see what happens inside the business, he said after the hearing.
That’s a question to be debated between attorneys, Keeton said.
As stated in today’s article, the majority of those testifying Tuesday were women. Of those, most were mothers. Many cited concerns about children being inadvertently exposed to the stands, and the impression the stands leave on young boys.
They also cited concerns that the stands would incite aggressive sexual tendencies in sex offenders and possibly cause some boys and men to become sexually aggressive. They are worried sexual violence toward women will escalate as a result of the stands because men will see women as sexual objects and not respect them.
I’ve included some of the comments from the hearing below. (Note: I wasn’t able to get everyone’s name spelled correctly, so I am not including names because I don’t want to get them wrong.)
One woman said:
“Men and boys are very visual. A little glimpse will be with them all day long,” she said. “It could start off with curiosity, then it could go from there when that’s not enough.”
Another woman said:
“There’s enough immorality, enough killings, enough rapes going on,” she said. “When women expose themselves like that, that opens the doors.”
Here’s comments from the man who questioned regulating a moral issue:
“I see people here telling other people how to live,” he said. “I’m 72 years old, I’ll save me. I’ll be responsible for my own actions.”
(It should be noted he said he has never visited one of the stands and has no financial interest in the stands).
Attorney Bagwell also questioned if the county was overstepping its bounds with the proposed regulations:
“Ultimately you can’t infringe upon the rights of others to conduct business because of the morality of some people,” he said.
Planning commissioners closed the public comment period Tuesday, but left the record open for written comments. Next county planners will compile the testimony while a county attorney will review a memorandum from the espresso stand attorneys sent last week. The document references case law that the attorneys say make the proposed options legally invalid.
Planning commissioners could deliberate and make a recommendation at their Aug. 16 meeting. The recommendation would go to county commissioners for review. Once the board of commissioners receives the proposed recommendation, another public hearing will be held before the board makes a decision.