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CAMPBELL — At Pink Pantherz Espresso’s latest drive-through spot, things are becoming quite heated — and it’s not just the coffee. Apparently, it’s the scantily clad baristas who are getting some folks all riled up.
As is typical for the chain — the baristas are all women and typically wear bikinis or lingerie. And, ever since it opened last weekend, some have embraced the concept while others are downright bothered.
The owner and manager of the shop say they have already have acquiesced to city officials who requested that the employees cover their rear ends and they’ve even toned down some of the saucier menu item names like changing a drink called Foreplay to Pre-Game.
“They shouldn’t be here,” a woman who identified herself only as a senior citizen who lives nearby said Tuesday, while standing just outside the shop.
She said she’s concerned about the neighborhood, and “worried about the customers it attracts,” not to mention that there is a preschool just down the street.
José Carmona of Modesto owns the five-shop chain, and said he respects people’s right to an opinion, but thinks people concerned about preschoolers nearby is odd, because the business mostly subsists on drive-through customers.
“Lately, I just laugh about it,” Carmona said in a phone interview Tuesday.
Maria Da Silva of San Jose was buying produce at a market in the same parking lot Tuesday, and said she doesn’t mind the business, and thinks concerns about the preschool are overblown.
“If the parents are concerned, they shouldn’t take their kids there,” she said.
Carmona also said he and his attorneys are working with city and county officials so his employees can be allowed to wear more revealing bottoms at the Campbell shop as well as at a Redwood City-area shop that opened last year — and where residents raised similar concerns about indecency.
At Carmona’s shops in Fremont, Modesto and Fresno, where there hasn’t been as strong a pushback, the baristas wear bikini bottoms, or more revealing lingerie.
Sarah Perrin, the manager of the Campbell and North Fair Oaks locations, said another misconception is that the baristas are forced into wearing bikinis, when Perrin said it’s their choice to work here.
“All the girls that work here, they know what they’re signing up for. Go work in an office — there is somewhat of a dress code there too,” she said
As for concerns about their attire: “Yes, I’m in a bikini serving a drink, but at the same time I’m not exposing myself anymore than a kid would see someone at a waterpark, or a lake, or going over to Santa Cruz.”
She also said the customers are, generally, respectful of the women working, and they always have the right to refuse serving someone if they are rude or crass.
Zenaida Lacuesta, of Santa Clara, who was in line outside the Social Security Administration building across the street, said she thinks it’s an inappropriate gimmick to sell coffee in bikini tops.
“If the coffee is good, people will come. It seems like they are attracting something else,” she said. She added that people expect to see bikinis at the beach and pools, but in a shopping center drive-through kiosk, it’s out of place.
Fred Rupprecht, of West San Jose, said he doesn’t care about the business being in the city.
“I don’t know if I would go there, but I don’t have an issue with it,” he said.
Perrin said people should not listen to everything they read or hear about the shop, and instead check it out for themselves before judging.
“The girls are bubbly, they’re nice, they’re hard working,” she said, noting the shop serves coffee drinks, but also iced infused energy drinks, and blended sweet drinks.
“Come, try a drink. The worst thing that could happen is you don’t like it,” Perrin said.
Carmona said he plans to open two more locations in the Bay Area soon, but declined to say where.
Becky Davis and Tony Matthews said they come to the area weekly to eat at their favorite Korean restaurant nearby, and used to frequent this shop when it was a Caffino, so they came by Tuesday to see what replaced it.
Neither had a problem with the bikini tops their baristas were wearing when they served their mocha and blended chai drinks.
“We support entrepreneurs,” Davis said, adding that maybe the bikini tops will help the business stave off competition from the Starbucks across the street.
Matthews said as long as the women working there are happy and comfortable, then he’s OK with it, and said people are too uptight about the whole situation.
“It’s a freakin’ coffee shop,” he said.
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