If you’re in the mood for your next drink to be served with a side of midriff and cleavage, you’re probably thinking, Could be time to go grab some margaritas at Hooters. Or maybe, I should check what the Friday lunch special is at my local strip club—do they have those 25-cent spicy wings today?
It is somewhat less likely that this combined mixture of thirst and, you know, thirst would strike before 9 AM, while you’re bleary-eyed and trying to acquire some pre-work caffeination at your local café. But, if you’re a resident of Fresno, CA—the former (and possibly current) “US meth capital”—you can stroll into the somewhat innocuously named Java Girls Espresso at 6:30 AM and get your morning cappuccino from a girl in a bikini and assorted interpretations of body jewelry, or—more recently, due to some policy changes—a ripped, shirtless dude in a chain necklace and low-slung jeans. Kind of gives a whole new meaning to the term “breast milk.”
Java Girls and its sister establishments—the nearby drive-thrus Pink Pantherz and Bottom’s Up—is spearheading (I guess that would be the term) the new local wave of “bikini baristas,” a concept that is exactly what it sounds like: assorted young things, mainly women (though they have recently started employing bare-chested men), in states of barely-dress, mixing up drinks like “raspberry cheesecake lattes” for a shameless crowd of ogling non-coffee-purists. Java Girls is sit-down-only, and the girls who work there use stage names. This is no Starbucks.
The owners of Fresno’s Java Girls, Dawn Peters and Terry Ford, recently decided to integrate male employees after female customers, as Ford recently told The Fresno Bee, “actually voiced to us that they would like to see men behind the counter.” They opted to keep the men in full jeans rather than Speedos because Ford worried that “the male clientele would find that offensive.” Like the female staff, they will share pictures of their daily attire (and lack thereof) as well as what hours they’ll be at the shop on the cafe’s Facebook page, which is littered with bikini and lingerie selfies that exhibit the nouveau-classic hacked-from-my-iPhone look. It makes you forget, or at the least wonder, that this establishment is about coffee at all.
Although it would be foolish to underestimate the base horniness of the widespread all-American-sleazebag archetype, the concept hasn’t gained much traction anywhere in the country besides Fresno and the Pacific Northwest, where it has thrived to an almost shocking degree. In Washington, Idaho, and Oregon, there are literally hundreds of bikini-themed espresso stands, though not without controversy; this past September, a cluster of six of them were discovered to actually be prostituting out their baristas, some of whom were pulling in up to $89,000 per month through their “services.” The baristas apparently weren’t too smooth about their under-the-table menu items; reviews mentioning their offers quickly made it onto Yelp pages of the “espresso stands,” which included Java Juggs Espresso, Twin Peaks, and the Hot Spot.
As for Java Girls and its associated espresso stands, they’ve received a mixed response from the local community. A local woman tried to petition against Bottom’s Up for its suggestive moniker, cleavage-happy dress code, and equally racy drink names, but without any real nudity there’s no violation of local health codes, and there can’t be any regulation of employees’ attire.
After all, this is America, where the people want boobs and birthday-cake-flavored lattes.