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Protest mixed over the bikini baristas

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By Judy Halone-The Courier-Herald

A protest in Bonney Lake that centered on scantily-clad baristas drew opinions from both sides of the issue throughout the Memorial Day weekend.

The protest was scheduled in response to the May 13 City Council meeting after a group of Plateau residents, the Citizens for Bonney Lake, planned to host a protest and clothing drive to benefit baristas who allegedly wear pasties and see-through underwear while on the job.

The two Bonney Lake businesses at the center of attention were Cowgirls Espresso, located on state Route 410, and the Hot-Chick-A-Latte Espresso, on the Sumner-Buckley Highway.

Travis Stern, 21, protested in front of Cowgirls Saturday morning.

“I think they're making a bigger deal than it is,” Stern said. “They should put their efforts into something bigger - like helping the homeless, or feeding the hungry.”

Stern, if he had a daughter, said he would not take her through the drive-through lane.

“I know it's here, I know what it's for and I would just go somewhere else,” he said.

Wilkeson resident Liz Boyt approached the issue from a different angle. She didn't come to pass judgment, but rather to reach out, she said.

“I wanted to come by to show compassion on these girls because God loved us first, so we need to love,” she said. “Judgment never transformed hearts; love did.

“I think they are (being judged), but who am I to say? They've had a lot of judgment on them. I'd rather not have anything negative to say.”

Boyt also expressed her concern for students on school buses passing by the stands.

“I'm not judging the girls; this is about location,” she said.

Lori Bowden of Kent was on hand at Cowgirls to offer support. Bowden owns the 14-chain Cowgirls and operates seven of those franchises, all presently in the Seattle-area. She said the business became a franchise eight months ago and plans to expand are under way.

Bowden said that between 7 and 10 a.m. Saturday customer turnout was strong and only one negative incident occurred during that time, when a protester argued with a customer.

At Hot-Chick-A-Latte it was a steady stream of business late Saturday morning. A sign from a barista's mother posted on the stand expressed her love and support for her daughter.

James Gregoire from Minnesota visited the stand with his relative, Bonney Lake resident Dennis Gregoire.

“This is OK,” James Gregoire said. “It's just a job, and that's the way it is.” He said he'd like to see the same type of business open in Minnesota.

Dennis Gregoire said he visits the coffee stand about once or twice a week.

“I love it,” he said. “I don't see nothing wrong with it.”

By noon Saturday, there were no visible signs of protests near the Hot-Chick-A-Latte stand. Attempts to locate protesters at that location were unsuccessful.

By Saturday afternoon, the protests had fizzled and by Monday morning, there was no apparent protesting in front of Cowgirls.

“It was very uneventful,” Bonney Lake Police Sgt. Ken McDonough said.

While the protest may have diminished, the clothing drive was a success, said Bonney Lake Cowgirls franchise co-owner Beth Ann Damery.

“We had a lot of participation,” she said. “We had a lot of clothing come in.”

The business donated the collected clothes to the Lions 4 Kids House.

“I was really surprised by the support the community gave us,” Damery said. “I'm just glad that I think it's over and I hope we can work with the community.”

City attorneys are looking into the issue that has drawn attention across the nation. They plan to present their findings at the upcoming City Council meeting.

Judy Halone can be reached at jhalone@courierherald.com.

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