Bikini Beans' Coming to Tempe Sparks Social-Media Backlash Against City Councilman
When Tempe City Councilman Kolby Granville posted a note on his Facebook wall lamenting that Bikini Beans Espresso — the coffee shop staffed with attractive, bikini-clad women — was opening a location in Tempe, he had no idea, he says, that his comment was controversial, let alone that it would inspire a backlash against him.
“I post all sorts of things on Facebook every day, and on the list of things that I thought would blow up, the comment ‘hey let’s not judge people on how they look but treat everyone with respect,’ was not one of them,” Granville says. “I thought it was a non-issue, [but] apparently it’s a controversial thing to say.”
Bikini Beans, which currently has a location in Phoenix, prides itself on being “the first bikini barista shop in Arizona” and for “making coffee look good.” Its owners are adamant that the bikini dress code is not objectifying their employees, but rather empowering them.
“Look, it’s 2015, I get it. Sex is a thing, sex sells stuff. I’m a guy, I’m as sex-able as anyone else,” Granville says. “I just think that in 40 years, we’re going to look back at a place like Bikini Beans and laugh about how we thought that’s how you should treat women.”
He adds that his post was never meant to imply that the store owners had no right to open the Tempe shop, just that he hoped market forces would prove that theirs is an unsuccessful model.
Here’s what Granville posted:
Since he wrote this, the Internet has exploded with both positive and negative reactions, but Granville says he stands by what he wrote. He still thinks the concept behind Bikini Beans exploits women, but adds that he’s mostly frustrated with how he feels his words have been twisted by Bikini Beans and its supporters.
It all began when Bikini Beans re-posted the comment, he says. “They mischaracterized it and rephrased what I said [as] ‘Kolby hates us.’
“No, I don’t actually hate you, I hate the ‘us’ that makes you possible.”
Bikini Beans didn’t respond to a request for comment by publication time, but here’s what the store posted on Facebook:
The post prompted reactions like:
The whole response has been shocking to Granville: “I’m surprised by how adamant people have been that I want to them to close down, how adamant people have been that I want to push puritanical values on other people and keep them from going to there. All three of those things are not true. I’m the farthest thing from puritanical that there is.”
He laughs a little while reciting some of the things people have accused him of being — gay, molested as a child, part of the Taliban, member of the Tea Party, a socialist — and likens his critics to those railing against some perceived threat “to take the God out of Christmas.”
He adds that the point of a business is to make money: “Bikini Beans is trying to do exactly that, and they should . . . If they can convince a bunch of guys to pay extra to get a coffee from a girl in a bikini, more power to them . . . Even if I had a magic wand, I wouldn’t ban them or limit them. If there’s anything I know for sure, it’s that the market knows what it wants . . . I hope the market agrees with me — and if it doesn’t, then it doesn’t.”
So is Granville right when he says it all boils down to something “no one wants to say: I’m a person who thinks that maybe we should be beyond treating women as objects”?
Sounds like only the market will decide.
**Update 11/13/15: Granville issued the following statement about the situation:
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Phoenix, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.