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Billings bikini baristas still facing backlash

Billings bikini baristas still facing backlash
Posted at 1:06 PM, Aug 16, 2022

BILLINGS — Billings city officials are fielding complaints about a new bikini barista coffee shop in the Heights, but the owners are saying they're not doing anything wrong.

Last month, MTN News told you about Steady Grinding Bikini Barista, the new bikini barista coffee shop stirring up conflict. Nevertheless, business is still booming.

“They don’t have to wear a bathing suit and it’s 100% up to them,” said Steady Grinding Bikini Barista coffee kiosk owner KC Johnson on Monday.

According to Billings City Administrator Chris Kukulski, some residents are pushing the City Council to better regulate the attire of workers at the shop.

“First step would be our City Council determining, do they want to adopt something along the lines that would prevent this kind of a business?” Kukulski said.

Johnson said he doesn't think that's feasible.

“If they were to enforce a dress code, they’d have to enforce a dress code at pools. They would have to enforce a dress code at, you know, community car washes… It’s not just this place,” Johnson said in response to the City Council possibly enforcing a minimum dress code for his business.

In July, Yellowstone County's public health department, RiverStone Health, conducted an inspection at Steady Grinding but didn’t find any code violations. Kukulski said the inspection was not prompted by the city. Under city code, Steady Grinding is not considered a sexually oriented business. If it were, the city would have more power to regulate certain aspects of operations.

So the coffee kiosk isn’t violating any current city ordinances.

But some Heights residents want the City Council to change that.

Bikini baristas in other states have faced similar backlash.

In Everett, Washington, the city implemented a dress code requiring bikini baristas to wear more clothes, but baristas there are fighting back. That court case began in 2017 and has not yet reached a resolution.

“If the council wanted to go further, in some preliminary research saw what Everett, Washington has done. Essentially at high level, adopting some type of a dress code and that’s being challenged in court,” Kukulski said.

As of now, the Billings City Council hasn’t taken that action. So, the bikini baristas still get to continue doing their job.

And the owner of Steady Grinding understands that City Council members are doing the same.

“They’re just doing their job. We got a lot of respect for City Council and everything that they do and this kind of falls in line with that,” Johnson said.