Grab-n-Go Espresso Bust: What is Prostitution?

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By Caleb Groos on September 24, 2009 4:06 PM

Several baristas have been charged with offering more than extra foam on lattes and mochas they were selling at the Grab-n-Go Espresso stand in Everett, Washington. Their case calls for some clarification as to what exactly constitutes prostitution.

According to the AP, the Grab-n-Go baristas were charged with prostitution over allegations that customers paid to touch the baristas' breasts and buttocks while they made coffee drinks. A two month investigation also included reports of various levels of flashing flesh for a fee, and reports of charging customers to watch baristas lick whipped cream off of each other.

In Washington state, prostitution is defined as engaging in, agreeing to, or offering to engage in sexual conduct with another person for a fee. Sexual conduct is defined as "any touching of the sexual or other intimate parts of a person done for the purpose of gratifying sexual desire of either party or a third party."

Despite the allegations of customers paying to see skin, it's the touching allegations, including the whipped cream licking, that would constitute prostitution. As included in Washington's definition, intimately touching someone for the gratification of a paying voyeur is prostitution.

And if local police sergeant Robert Goetz is correct, the charges may do little to stem what some locals see as a disturbing trend of coffee stands using scantily clad personnel to lure in customers.

According to the Seattle Times, he stated that "[t]his was about alleged conduct, not about what the women were wearing. They could have been wearing parkas and if they continued to conduct themselves that way, we still would have filed the criminal charges."

So even though customers may not have thought of themselves as johns, if the allegations prove true, they were -- and would have been even if the baristas had been in parkas.

As for baristas wearing bikinis to draw customers, that remains an open question. The Seattle Times reports that Everett's city council is set to decide next week whether the city's lewd conduct ordinance should cover espresso stands.