There may be more than one way to skin a cat, but in Redwood City, residents would rather you didn’t. According to several sources, the controversial Pink Pantherz Espresso is now claiming they will modify their sexually suggestive menu names and require baristas to wear normal uniforms instead of revealing bikinis and lingerie.
As previously reported in Climate, the hotly contested coffee stop is slated to open a new location at 2797 El Camino Real, the space formerly occupied by Caffino. When the cat was out of the bag and locals learned about the plans for the space, it triggered a firestorm of debate on social media – local Facebook group “Redwood City Residents: Say What?” even banned posts on the topic and shut down debate by turning off all commenting on posts about the issue.
Rather than just debating the practical concerns of the issue (How do bikinis comply with the Health Code?!) or the moral ones (Should our kids be passing by a menu with items like “Birthday Sex” and “Panty Dropper” twice a day, to and from school?!) Sister Christina Heltsley took action.
Sr. Heltsley, the Executive Director of St. Francis Center (located in North Fair Oaks), member of the San Mateo County Women’s Hall of Fame and tireless advocate for the community led the charge in creating a Change.org petition opposed to the business that to date has more than 1,400 signatures. It is that overwhelming pressure – and the leadership of those like Sister Christina – that many believe forced Pink Pantherz to change their plans.
“I just couldn’t believe that in 2018, the year of #metoo, our super progressive city was even considering this. As a realtor I’m well aware of the demographics of the Fair Oaks neighborhood and the challenges it has faced,” said Vicky Costantini, who has been vocal in her opposition. “Advocates like Sister Christina and Janet Davis have fought hard to improve it, so in this instance I was happy to help despite public backlash.”
County officials also confirmed they were “recently informed by the owner that he plans to change the menu and attire, but… will not assume this issue is resolved until we confirm how the business is actually being operated.”
Opponents also remain vigilant – despite discussion being banned on “Says What,” they plan to go ahead with the march against the business this Friday. For Costantini, this issue is about far more than bikinis: “As a Latina business owner and daughter of immigrants, I want these girls to have positive role models who teach them their worth. Stripping and serving coffee wouldn’t do that. I’m so proud of everyone that turned the tide and said no to exploitation. We had a huge Women’s March in Redwood City this year, including a human trafficking awareness display. This dilutes our message that Redwood City is empowering women and protecting children.”
The owners of Pink Pantherz Espresso have not returned calls seeking comment.