You'd think boobies and coffee would be a home run no matter what, but we found different.
The entire concept of topless coffee shops have been under fire recently, especially in the Pacific Northwest where they originated. In fact, Zagat put together a damn fine little documentary detailing the pros and cons of running a bare-boobs barista program over in Washington.
But what about scantily clad baristas in Colorado? Yes, there are a few to choose from — and some have even shut down. Did the Bible-thumping right wing nutjobs win?
We analyzed every topless coffee joint on the Front Range, both open and closed, to figure out what the magic formula really was. With this handy guide, now you can open your own bikini coffee shop!
1) You need damn good coffee no matter what.
This is America. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of places to get a great cup of coffee in the greater Denver area and even the sweetest boobs in the universe wouldn't convince you to pay $7 for a burned latte. Yes, men are generally horny — but they're not stupid. Analyzing the multiple Yelp reviews of a local bikini shop, the biggest nail in the coffin was the consistently bad coffee:
Damn, that's harsh. But the free market will dictate which company lives and dies in this economy, and that's fair.
2) You don't even necessarily need scandalous outfits, thanks to our repressed culture.
These are photos from a very popular and successful bikini coffee shop in the Denver area, and no, they're not in bikinis. (Some of them do wear bikinis, but that's not the point right now.) Humans are a weird species, and they can be super motivated by taboos. Thanks to our country's Christian Conservative founding, women with almost any skin showing has been deemed "inappropriate" and should be shunned by society. So a coffee shop where they're wearing less than they would at Starbucks instantly makes it exciting and wrong — and people want to go there just for a taste of this cultural taboo. We're not supposed to see naked ladies, so by igniting this deeply rooted social "no no," your new bikini coffee shop can do big business without featuring pasties-only employees.
3) But the women have to be very conventionally attractive.
Now we don't want to start a huge Internet battle about how "all women are beautiful" and that we're stuck-up assholes. But the photos above are from a bikini coffee shop in Denver that shut down. And yes, these ladies are very attractive and many, many men would punch their own grandmother just to go on a date with one of them. Now look at the photos from the last bullet point and scroll back down. Are any of the ladies immediately above going to walk down the runway at a Victoria's Secret fashion show? Or pose on the cover of Maxim? No. If one of the main selling points of your store is attractive, scantily clad women, you need women with the most widely accepted standards of beauty. There's a reason every single cover of Maxim looks the same — they want people to pick up their magazine, so they feature a model that almost every guy would find hot: big boobs, long hair, clear skin, pleasing curves. Without that, you'll be fighting a losing battle.
4) Overstep your bounds at your own risk.
So the religious right is gonna be pretty pissed off that you've got ladies in lingerie that might seduce their husbands away. Therefore, at every possible chance, they're gonna try to take you down. A bikini coffee shop in Denver was having a hard time with business (because they didn't follow the above-mentioned advice), so they put their ladies on the street to advertise. Knowing that there are bikini babes at all makes conservative Christians really mad, but seeing them strutting up and down the street makes them downright furious.
When the owner sent women wearing bikinis onto city streets to advertise the shop, that prompted City Councilwoman Molly Markert and at least 30 other people to sign a petition calling for a boycott of the shop.
She asked people to stay away from not just the coffee shop, but the entire shopping center it was located in. "When one of his employees is raped and murdered, we will all mourn the loss," Markert wrote in her newsletter. "In the meantime, we pledged not to shop…until the outside parades cease permanently."
People can be pretty open-minded about tits, but when your tits are keeping someone else's store from succeeding, now there's a problem. Keep things discreet and above-board.
5) For God's sake, don't hire prostitutes.
There's a ton of money in making bikini versions of everyday services. For example, business at "breastaurants" like Hooters is outperforming the food services industry big time. One of the most popular chains, Tilted Kilt, saw sales grow 18% to $196 million last year compared to the previous year, according to Technomic. The company currently has 94 locations, up from 14 in 2008. Local rival Twin Peaks' sales grew 68% to $165 million over the same time period, as the chain nearly doubled its locations.
But when you branch into prostitution and full-on nudity, you're gonna get in trouble. At Java Juggs in Washington, coffee drinks started at $6. But for another $14, baristas would allegedly flash their breasts or genitals to customers, according to charging documents reviewed by the Associated Press. A customer described the weird sex-act system in a Yelp review, saying, "[The barista] conversed while making my coffee and then said for $20.00 she would show me 'everything' and get naked," the customer wrote. "I told her that was an expensive cup of coffee and asked what she'd show me for $5.00. She showed me plenty."
At another joint in Washington, one barista even told investigators that she earned more than a half-million dollars turning tricks at her bikini coffee stands. In charging papers, the authorities were blunt. "These businesses were driven by prostitution and lewd behavior," deputy prosecutor Bob Hendrix wrote.
Moral of the story: don't get greedy.
Bonus tip: leave the coffee-cup bikini top at home.
This last one should be obvious.
Now when your bikini coffee shop goes worldwide thanks to our sage advice, you can repay us with free coffee. You're welcome.