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Hooters wants to have its hot wings and eat them too, legally speaking.
New complaints filed last week against the restaurant chain in Sacramento, San Francisco, San Bruno and Orange County claim that Hooters wants want to be classified as places for sexual entertainment and as a family friendly restaurant -- all at the same time. The National Organization of Women's complaints argue Hooters can't have it both ways.
Hooters has been the subject of many suits for sexual harassment, over uniforms, and as recently discussed in this blog, for weight discrimination. Now, NOW charges Hooters with a completely different and potentially more successful tack. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, NOW says that in the past, Hooters has successfully defended itself against the implementation of federal rules regarding sexual harassment of its servers. Hooters claimed they are in the sexual entertainment business and their waitresses know they will be working in a "sexually-charged atmosphere" Patricia Bellasalma, NOW's California president, told the Chronicle.
Fair enough for all the adult waitresses who sign on to work as a Hooter's girl. But what about the baby t-shirts reading "Future Hooters girl" and the availability, as NOW claims, of kid's menus and high-chairs?
Under many state and city laws, adult entertainment establishments are not permitted to serve anyone under 18 years of age. NOW's Bellasalma claims that Hooter's is not only serving minors, but making them welcome. To bolster this argument, at least some Hooter's restaurants allow a "kids eat free" day on Sundays.
If these claims are true, the company might have some back-tracking to do. The claims could affect not only sexual harassment rules for servers, or service to minors violations, but even zoning violations if the restaurants are officially found to be adult establishments.
The company dismisses the complaints as a "waste of taxpayer money" according to The Orange County Register. In an effort to address several of the potential issues at once, Mike McNeil, the vice president of marketing for Hooters of America, told The Register, "It is time for NOW to accept the fact that the public likes Hooters and there is really nothing they can do about it. Hooters is no more in violation of California adult entertainment codes than the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition is. However, guys can't do that job either."
Whether you love 'em or hate em, go for the hot wings or the hotties, Hooter's supporters and detractors might want to agree on just one thing: skip the baby T and maybe leave the future Hooter's girls at home?