It’s been a pretty open secret in Little Saigon that the law doesn’t apply at the 20 or so Vietnamese coffee shops in San Jose. Patrons can smoke without being asked to put out their cigarettes. And scandalously-clad waitresses are known to remove what little lingerie they wear — or give an occasional lap dance — for a good tip. The libertarian culture flourished even in times when San Jose had a more fully staffed and better paid police department and the murder rate was less than half of what it is this year. But in these tough and violent times, ticketing topless baristas or smoking law violators just hasn’t made it onto the radar.
Things changed Sunday night when uniformed police officers sauntered into Quyen Café on Tully Road at 8:30pm on Sunday night and spotted three females — aged 22, 22 and 23 — who were leaving little or nothing to the imagination. The three women were cited for public display of nudity, a violation of San Jose’s austere municipal code. The women were not arrested or named.
The clothing-optional work environment has been discussed in the media for months. A Tuoi Tre News report on Vietnews wrote on July 2, “The waitresses at Quyen on a recent weekday afternoon were in various stages of undress.” The San Francisco blog SFist snickered about San Jose’s coffee shops in its June 21 post, San Jose Has Nudie Coffee Shops.
A San Jose police department spokesman was paraphrased in a CBS 5 broadcast as saying that with San Jose’s skyrocketing homicide rate, “naked waitresses are just not a priority.” Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen complained on the same broadcast that waitresses were walking around “semi naked or complete naked”
On September 2, a poster to the website Yelp noted that “these girls are basically naked, serving coffee. ...When we walked in here,” she added, “it was dark and literally rows and rows of old men sitting on the side, just staring at the naked girl walking around. ... all of a sudden, the music went up and the lights dimmed and this old lady… took out flashlights and made her girls dance on the table! and all those gross old men where cheering and glaring and touching like they’ve never touched a woman before.”
After two months of media reports and complaints, San Jose Police Department headed down to Tully Road to see for themselves. With these three tickets, SJPD has sent a message: Keep your lingerie on, ladies.