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Controversy brews between Tempe councilman and Bikini Beans

Bikini Beans
Baristas Natalie Scriven (left) and Allyson Barela pose for a picture at Bikini Beans Espresso in Phoenix on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015.

Tempe council member Kolby Granville brewed up controversy when he made a Facebook post about the Bikini Beans Espresso shop opening up a new location in Tempe.

While Granville said he has nothing against the business owners themselves, it seems this establishment, a drive-thru coffee shop that has employees wear bikinis, leaves a bitter taste in his mouth -- with nothing to do with coffee.

“I HATE THIS. HATE IT,” Granville wrote in the post. “I hate that I'm currently teaching my students about Seneca Falls, about the fight for voting, and about a million other battles won by brave women to be treated as more than objects, and yet this is where America still stands.”

Granville said he feels that these kinds of establishments cater to an industry that values women solely as objects of desire, a trend he hoped was in decline.

“When a store like this opens, it angers me because it tells me that (this trend) is not diminishing, but it’s an expanding industry,” he said.

Granville said he does not feel the women who work at Bikini Beans should be ashamed or stop working there, but he feels that this establishment and others like it sends the message to young girls that their physical appearance is their highest worth.

“If a girl goes by and sees yet another example of this and says, ‘Wow, so I’m worth $15 an hour as a person but $20 an hour as an object,’ they’ll do what any person of ration will do,” he said. “They’ll go to the utility.”

Owners Regina and Ben Lyles disagree. They said they feel their business empowers women and they would not be at all disappointed if their own young daughter worked there one day.

“This is where true women's empowerment is!” Regina Lyles wrote in an email. “I would encourage her to embrace all her options, earn a competitive salary, educate herself or stand behind a company or family business, she could be proud of.”

Regina Lyles wrote that Bikini Beans empowers women because of the confidence it takes to wear a bikini, flaws and all, and it presents them with a unique and fun working environment that they have the right to choose if they want to.

Lyles wrote that she feels it was inappropriate and unfortunate that Council Member Granville chose to publicly attack a small independent business that they feel will benefit the economy and provide jobs for women.

“We’re not selling sex, we’re selling coffee,” she wrote. “The bikinis/concept gets customers through the door, but if you don't provide an excellent product and outstanding customer service, no matter what the women wear, customers won't return.”

Other local coffee shops had mixed reactions to their prospective neighbor.

ASU physics senior and barista at Royal Coffee Bar Josef Rinderer said while he believes Bikini Beans objectifies women, he also does not care for the idea of a drive-thru coffee shop.

“I never go to drive-thru coffee shops,” he said. “Usually, I take coffee just to sit and enjoy, not just the coffee but the moment itself. I feel like coffee here in the U.S. is too much about getting your drink in a rush and running out the door.”

Cartel Coffee Lab barista Megan Sowersby said she takes no personal issue with Bikini Beans or its business model, though she cannot speak for Cartel as a whole.

“Coffee is coffee,” she said. “It really doesn’t matter to me. I feel like all coffee shops have their own special thing that they do.”

Related Links:

Caffeine Fix: The Roosevelt Row coffee crawl

Good vibes and great coffee at One Coffee Co.

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