Friday, May 25, 2018
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San Jose's Vietnamese cafes figure less is more

Scantily clad servers pack in the customers


Vietnamese cafes are a cultural fixture of San Jose's Southeast Asian community and have been known for the provocative attire of their waitresses for nearly two decades.


SAN JOSE, Calif. -- When Cafe Quyen is hopping -- as it often is, day and night -- the Vietnamese coffee shop has as many as six waitresses serving customers crammed into a space no larger than a doctor's waiting room.

A cultural fixture of San Jose's Southeast Asian community bounded by Story and Tully roads, the Vietnamese cafes drip coffee and covetousness.

The waitresses at Quyen on a recent weekday afternoon were in various stages of undress. A middle-age woman whom bloggers refer to as "boss lady Linh" passed through the crowd in a hot pink see-through blouse as waitresses climbed on chairs and danced, shouting "Tip! Tip!" at the customers.

The coffee shops -- which have been in business for at least two decades in San Jose -- always have been known for the provocative attire of their waitresses. But as the economy tanked, the bottom fell out of some servers' costumes -- literally.

Several Vietnamese coffee shops began serving $4 glasses of iced coffee to their predominantly male clientele by waitresses wearing little or nothing at all.

It's hard to come by facts and figures -- well, facts anyway -- from this cafe culture. But if you believe blog posters, who follow the wardrobe contrivances of waitresses as they might Paris couturiers, women are paid according to how much they are willing to take off, with those baring everything earning about $30 an hour, plus tips.

But despite the link to lust, the coffee shops have rarely been visited by the San Jose Police Department in recent months. "No, it's not permitted, and no, we don't turn a blind eye to it," said Sgt. Jason Dwyer, a department spokesman.

"But the reality is we have to prioritize. If we're going to spend resources, do we want to spend them doing gang and drug enforcement? Or do we want them going into these Viet coffee shops?"

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