> ‘Hooters’ given permission to open in Millennium Square, but some fear negative implications of new restaurant

Spot the odd one out

One word when uttered is guaranteed to get any heterosexual male’s attention and rile up a group of feminists faster than you can say… Hooters! And it is coming to Bristol.

The famous American chain ‘breastaurant’ has been given permission by the City Council’s licensing committee to open on Millennium Square. There are plans for around 36 restaurants to be opened across the United Kingdom by 2012. Despite the joy of businessmen about the incredible income coming shortly, this news has been met with animosity by locals.

Some locals have shown concern that this is another sign of the growing Americanisation of the UK. It is bad enough that the Government has spent most of its time in recent years kissing up to America’s backside; we have got McDonald’s on every single corner and a TGI Fridays, Frankie and Bennies, and Starbucks to fill in the empty spaces.

Moreover, local police have raised concerns that bringing Hooters to Harbourside may encourage additional violence and sexual harassment in what is already a violent area.

Neighbourhood Sergeant for the area, Stephen Bell, stated that the location already “falls in the top 20 violent crime hot-spots in Bristol city.” His concerns were put forward during the licensing committee meeting, but plans for Hooters to open were approved.

The strongest opposition to the Hooters chain opening has come from the Bristol Feminist Network (BFN). Their main concern is about the spread of sexual objectification of women. This network is not a simply crowd of furious women who hate men, do not want to have families and an extreme dislike of ironing (as some people may define a feminism movement). The BFN is a network of women and men with an interest in gender issues that run discussions and campaign for equality in Bristol.

Many might think that Hooters opening is not that big of a deal; Bristol already hosts many strip and lap dancing clubs. It is worth mentioning that the BFN has previously been successful in lobbying the council to adopt new licensing laws regarding sex entertainment venues. For example, they have stopped a strip club being opened in Old Market.

A spokesperson for BFN voiced awareness for the increase of violence in the Harbourside area as a result of Hooters opening: “The venue is going to attract stag dos and large groups of drunken men, and could increase sexual harassment in the area as well as men on men violence.”

Pretty, busty blondes walking around in teeny tiny shorts and t-shirts, serving burgers and beer may seem harmless enough. However, the BFN highlights the wider implications of this trend: “We think that Hooters is a continuation of the pattern that normalises sexual objectification of women. This is a serious issue as this has been linked (…) to violence against women and girls, the rise of the sex industry and an increase in low self-esteem and mental disorders in young women.”

Director of the UK’s chain for Hooters Bill McTaggart says that the restaurant’s outfit is a “wholesome cheerleader look” and that they are a “family friendly restaurant.” The extent of it being a family restaurant is questionable, to say the least. It is unlikely any parent would want their child to be around whilst one of the iced water wet t-shirt competitions is taking place, and not just because someone of shorter stature is at risk of being poked in the eye by a Hooter-Boob! Moreover, people under 18’s must be accompanied by an adult and are not allowed in after 9pm. Are they not expecting families to dine late together..?

Mr. McTaggart estimates that the venue will generate around 90 jobs, which is definitely a good thing in the current economic climate. However, it is unclear how many of these jobs will benefit, for example, a middle aged builder with a wife, kids and a mortgage, who has just been made redundant because of the waning need for new builds at the moment.
Any successful applicant for Hooters should be warned that when you sign your contract of employment you also sign away your rights regarding sexual harassment in the workplace. The contract says:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sUJJhA4B-zU[/youtube]“I hereby acknowledge and affirm that the Hooters concept is based on female sex appeal and that the work environment is one in which joking and innuendo based on female sex appeal is commonplace.”

In any other workplace if someone makes a sexist or derogatory comment to a woman or man, they have the right to lodge a formal complaint. Hooters undermine this basic human right for anybody not to be subjected to harassment.

The BFN has raised concerns about currently pending law suits of employment discrimination within the company. In one branch in Illinois, USA, an employee turned up to work with bruising on her face as a result of domestic violence. The employee was told she could not work at that day. This seems reasonable as any waitress/waiter should be presentable to the customers. What is not reasonable was that once she had recovered she was not allowed to return to work again. If entertainment venues oriented around sex appeal are linked to increase domestic violence, then firing someone for being a victim of it certainly does not help.

A petition of more than 780 signatures opposing the licensing committee’s decision to allow Hooters to open was submitted, along with the presence of several campaigners, but still had no effect on the outcome of the meeting.

Mr. McTaggart says: “I am a strong believer in the freedom of choice. We’re not going to force anyone to go there. I would like the people of Bristol to make their minds up.”

It seems that many already have, and are against the Hooters restaurant opening. Of course, no one has to go there, but that does not offer much solace to those people who have to live or work near there.

By Kayla Maratty