Local News

Friday, Jun 06 2014 07:52 PM

Now serving coffee with a side of bikinis

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    By Theo Douglas/ The Californian

    Bakersfield resident Doris Sharp pays Sierra Salinas for a smoothie Friday at Bottom's Up Espresso.

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    By Theo Douglas/ The Californian

    Sierra Salinas talks to a customer Friday at Bottom's Up Espresso.

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    By Theo Douglas/ The Californian

    Zach Elianow pays Sierra Salinas for his drink Friday at Bottom's Up Espresso.

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    By Theo Douglas/ The Californian

    Bakersfield resident Ali Dougherty pays co-owner Alexandra Ireland for a drink Friday at Bottom's Up Espresso.

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  5. 5 of 5

    By Theo Douglas/ The Californian

    Bottom's Up Espresso attracts a crowd Friday afternoon in southwest Bakersfield.

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BY THEO DOUGLAS Californian staff writer tdouglas@bakersfield.com

Thirteen days after Bakersfield Christian High School's last day of instruction, Bottom's Up Espresso opened its drive-up windows and two young women in bikinis began dispensing coffee and smoothies with smiles.

And it was good.

On Friday, the second day, it was really good.

"This is really the first time we haven't had a car in four and a half hours. We're both like, 'Stop so we can clean.' I have chocolate in my hair!" said the chain's co-owner Alexandra Ireland, 26, on Friday afternoon. "We, today, have done almost ... what our busiest coffee shop does on a regular day. On our second day here."

Maybe that's because of the bikinis, no?

Or the location -- across Allen Road from BCHS?

Ask the men -- maybe the baseball cap-wearing three-man crew in the lowered Honda Civic hatchback?

"We were curious because we saw it on the news. To be honest, I've never even been to a strip club," said a young man named ... well, he didn't want to give his name, but he didn't feel shy about saying it would be better if Bottom's Up were just a little "further away from the school."

This was an alarming trend: men -- some women, but mostly men -- who didn't want to give their names or have their pictures taken.

Bakersfield resident Ali Dougherty had a theory about the anonymous thirsty masses.

They "probably don't want to get reprimanded by their wives or significant others. Doesn't phase me. You can see more worse things on the Internet," Dougherty said, ordering a Blonde Bombshell on the rocks and noting it would be a problem "probably, for a lot of Bakersfield residents."

Ireland and barista Sierra Salinas said patrons had been respectful and encouraging during the last 48 hours.

"I was just kind of expecting something fun, but this is definitely a more positive experience than I would have thought," said Salinas, a recent high school graduate who is saving up money for college.

But Bottom's Up posed a problem for BCHS the moment news of the Bakersfield location -- its fifth store -- broke in November.

School officials said they realized the real world starts at their gates -- but bikinied baristas would be a conflict for their students,

Then, for six months, not much happened outside of new paint and signage until nearly two weeks after BCHS let out.

In an effort to avoid problems when students return, Ireland said the store has toned down its drink names -- and no, in this newspaper we can't tell you what they were before.

The store also won't serve anyone from BCHS during school hours.

"We're not trying to force ourselves on anybody. As you can see there's pretty small windows, we have screens in front of them so you literally can't see in unless you drive up to the window," Ireland said.

Her audience was listening.

"I think it's good," said Zach Elianow -- and he meant the coffee. "Bikinis? I'm a young man. Personally, I think it's cool. I think the people, if they have a problem with it, they could just not go. It's as simple as that."

Ireland said the chain's proliferation -- five stores in three years -- sends her a clear, positive message.

"I think it's empowering. I started this business when I was 22 years old," she said. "And I think the fact that I was able to go out at a young age and now I've built -- we're pushing a million dollars in sales a year now, and that's a big deal for a 26-year-old."

"I think it's a good idea," customer Megan Cherry said -- and she meant the bikinis. "Because they're going to get tips. And they're pretty."

Customer Bonnie Peterson said the bikinis might have gone a little over her head.

"I just don't understand why they think it's necessary to have these young ladies stand out here with almost nothing on, to sell smoothies," Sharp said, buying drinks for herself and driver Doris Sharp. "We'd buy them anyway. They aren't naked at Starbucks."

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