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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Bikini Coffee Draws Sexism Protests

Posted by Matt Davis on Thu, Aug 14, 2008 at 10:07 AM

"We're not puritanical stereotypes," says interior designer, Danielle Colonna, left, who came to Portland from France. "I've been topless on the beach in France, but I feel that for a business environment, this is like the proverbial nude calendar round the water cooler, which this society has decided is no longer acceptable. This is about these womens' futures, and they may not realize it yet, but they may now face issues in the future with being treated equally in the workplace."

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Marketing consultant Lynn Parsons, right, was one day away from leasing office space in the Yeon building on SW 5th, where Bikini coffee is now renting the first floor retail space.

"But I decided I needed to see how this business would impact the building," Parsons says. "I mostly work with men, so to have my clients know I'm in the building or for them to come to the building would be really inappropriate."

The Yeon building is owned by landlord John Beardsley, who recently cooperated with the city to build an Emergency women's shelter in his building on NW 5th and Burnside. Beardsley is yet to return a call for comment.

"It's fine to wear bikinis on the beach or in dance clubs," says Sermin Yesilada, also an interior designer, center. "I wear bikinis on the beach, but this is not an appropriate business to have in the downtown core. This building also houses the Friends of the Library, the Friends of the Columbia Gorge, and Multnomah Public Defenders. When I first started work I did dress sexier and showed more skin, but I was not taken seriously as a professional."

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"I think it's silly," says Carmel Detrich, left, who works in the shop. "There's so many strip clubs in Portland and nobody's protesting against them, also, they're bringing in quite a bit of business, because people see them and then come in and buy a coffee."

"If they don't like our coffee shop, then maybe don't look this way when they walk past," says Kirsten Orr, right, who also works there. "They say they're for women's rights, but they don't seem to support or respect our rights to work here. We work really hard to stay in shape and I think what we're doing is just like Hooters. But I don't see these ladies protesting at Jantzen Beach."

This morning, three women and ten men came to the shop during a 20 minute period.

"I don't see nothing wrong with it," said construction worker Tyler Handforth, who was working nearby. "These women are just doing their jobs and should be allowed to continue."

"I'm just a curiosity seeker," said Julie, who works locally in a Media company but declined to give her last name. "My boyfriend was in here yesterday and he said it was a little creepy, so I brought my friends along to check it out. I feel like it's a little bit of a disconnect between coffees and bikinis. It would be like connecting lemonade with tigers. It's so random."

"We were curious too," said Andy, one of Julie's co-workers. "And we wanted to see how far they were going to take their concept. I think they're going to get a lot of unpaid-for media out of this."

Both Julie and Andy agreed that the coffee was not the best in town.

"I'm not sure I'd come back for the coffee or the talent, to be honest," said Andy. "But there's a barista down at Peet's on Broadway who I'd love to see in this concept."

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