UPDATE DEC 20: Salon has a short piece up about this in its Broadsheet section. An extract:
We could argue over whether Hooters has a healthy impact on a kid's developing view of women and sex, but I tend to think entertainment and dining decisions should be left up to individual parents. More important, that isn't the issue at hand. In this case, NOW (which hasn't always been a model of moderate thinking) has taken the exceedingly reasonable position that Hooters shouldn't be allowed to have the best of both worlds: Either it functions exclusively as an adult venue, and continues to protect itself (somewhat) from sexual discrimination claims, or it's held to the same standards as any ol' family restaurant and gets to keep on serving the kiddies tater tots and creepy onesies.
And now, finally, the blog post you've been waiting for...
NOW California says that "in San Francisco, Sacramento, Orange County, and San Bruno, complaints will be filed with police departments, the District Attorney, and the California Attorney General, urging enforcement of statutes against exposure of minor children to sexual entertainment and prurient material."
The crux of the organization's argument, which you can read on its web site, is that in the 1990s Hooters told the EEOC that it was exempt from workplace sexual discrimination laws because it was primarily a provider of "vicarious sexual entertainment."
But, NOW says:
Hooters also advertises themselves as a family restaurant, and fails to comply with regulations for providers of sexual entertainment....On a typical evening, Hooters, Inc. serves children younger than 18 years of age and offers child menus, high chairs and booster seats. They also display and sell products of prurient nature, including t-shirts in child sizes with statements such as “Future Hooters Girl....
Local and state authorities should demand that Hooters, Inc. either comply with EEOC prohibitions against sexual discrimination, if they wish to be a family restaurant that serves children, or comply with regulations covering providers of sexual entertainment, which prohibit children from the premises. It's time to end this legal bait and switch.
So, what does Hooters say? We received this press release from Alexis Aleshire, the vicarious sexual entertainment/family restaurant chain's Public Relations Manager, and lemme tell you, it's a dilly:
Hooters of America, Inc. today announced that it has not been contacted by any authorities in connection with NOW’s complaint filing in California, which attempts to paint Hooters as being in violation of the “Adult Entertainment” codes of Orange County and the State of California. The company believes the charges are ridiculous and that the popular restaurant chain, which currently has 24 locations in California, is not even close to violating these codes.
“Hooters Girls are sexy and vivacious. The element of sex appeal is certainly prevalent in our restaurants, and is the essence of the Hooters experience, but the Hooters brand of sex appeal is wholesome and that of the All-American cheerleader, not a seedy strip club,” said Mike McNeil the VP of Marketing for Hooters of America. “These complaints are merely last gasp efforts by an organization that lost this battle decades ago. 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’s adult entertainment codes than the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition is. However guys can’t do that job either,” concluded McNeil.
The company is concerned that the efforts of NOW are wasting tax payer dollars and distracting law enforcement authorities from pursuing real crime. The company also reports that the publicity generated by NOW’s efforts have actually helped sales in the past 24 hours.