Following controversy, Kenmore's Best Friend coffee stand becomes family friendly
December 11, 2010 · Updated 3:39 PM
Following some publicity over an incident in which a customer claimed a female barista exposed herself, the Best Friend coffee shop on Northeast Bothell Way in Kenmore has quickly moved away from using bikini- or lingerie-clad baristas.
Stand operator Wayne Hembree said the business is now family friendly and will stay that way.
"We are committed to this," said Hembree, who added that he and his family were embarrassed by news reports over the alleged incident.
Hembree was so upset, he said he didn't want his name used in further news stories, but he already had been identified by city officials in comments and in materials made public.
"Mr. Hembree indicated he wished to apologize to the city, the City Council and the citizens of Kenmore for any embarrassment that Best Friend may have caused the city and the Kenmore community," City Manager Fred Stouder wrote in an e-mail sent Dec. 8 to councilmembers and other city officials.
According to Stouder, Best Friend employees must now be fully clothed, wearing no lingerie, no see-through blouses. Stouder said Hembree promised to deal harshly with any employee who violated the new dress code.
According to Stouder, Hembree asked for the opportunity to apologize to Kenmore City Council in person and was invited to appear at council's next session, which won't happen until Jan. 10.
The Best Friend stand sits on the outskirts of the parking lot of the St. Vincent de Paul Society thrift store on Bothell Way. Hembree said he already had spoken with the manager of that store, detailing the changes that have been made at the coffee stand. Further, according to Stouder, Best Friend employees have been told to report any customers asking for inappropriate behavior from any of the baristas. Stouder also said stand operators wanted any future complaints about Best Friend, should they occur, to be passed on to them immediately.
While he repeatedly vowed he will be staying with a family friendly format, when asked, Hembree said the switch does not come without a price. He estimated his business already had dropped by 50 percent. Reportedly, some of his employees are not necessarily happy about the switch. According to a customer who visited the store after the change was made, the female barista on duty said she previously made up to $200 in tips during a shift at the stand.
Best Friend captured some headlines after a customer filed a complaint about a barista at the stand with Kenmore police. Kenmore receives its safety services from the King County Sheriff's Office and the incident initially was turned over to county detectives. The case has since been dropped, according to Sheriff's Office spokesman Sgt. John Urquhart.
Urquhart said the reporting party had decided not to help in any prosecution, which Urquhart added is his right.
"He was reticent to even report it in the first place," Urquhart said.
According to the original police report, which wasn't filed until Nov. 20, a customer said he visited the stand Oct. 26 after retrieving his car from the nearby Kenmore Park and Ride. He told police he didn't report the alleged incident sooner out of embarrassment.
The reporting party told police he didn't know the stand was a bikini coffee shop. After he ordered a hot chocolate, the female barista allegedly asked the man if he wanted a show. The man said he responded positively, not really knowing what to expect.
According to the police report, the man states the barista exposed and briefly fondled herself. The man said he was surprised enough that he drove away from the stand quickly, leaving his change behind.