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Sex and burger chain off menu

Plans to open a restaurant which trades on the sex appeal of its waitresses in Sheffield's Leopold Square have been called off following protests.

Student Kirsty Bowen, 21, began the backlash against the American chain Hooters – which takes its name from US slang for breasts – after she heard it was planning to open in the square.

Hooters, which has 400 branches across the US, currently only has one British outlet, in Nottingham, but is keen to expand. Hooters staff dress in small orange running shorts and tight-fitting vests designed to emphasise their breasts.

Sheffield Hallam University student Miss Bowen was told by developers Ask that it had stopped negotiations with Wings Over England, Hooters' parent company, after "careful consideration of our aspirations for Leopold Square."

Leon Guyett, from Ask, added: "We have taken the decision to cease negotiations with Wings Over England and are continuing our discussions with other parties who have expressed an interest in the square."

Miss Bowen said: "It's common sense – it's such an upmarket area, a really nice place to go and eat and something like Hooters wouldn't fit in at all.

"Although I'd call myself a feminist, this wasn't just about a feminist issue. We wanted to get as many people's support as possible. To be honest, I find Hooters just as offensive to men, as it suggests they like this sort of thing."

She pointed to the fact that Hooters waitresses in America have to sign a disclaimer saying they understand that they may be subject to sexual advances.

The contract reads: "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."

It continues: "I also expressly acknowledge and affirm I do not find my job duties, uniform requirements or work environment to be intimidating, hostile or unwelcome."

Miss Bowen added: "The very fact that they have to sign this means they're almost giving away their rights."

The Hooters website, which acknowledges that most of its customers are men, says the company's business motto is "you can sell the sizzle, but you have to deliver the steak."

It adds: "Sex appeal is legal and it sells. Newspapers, magazines, daytime talk shows, and local television affiliates consistently emphasize a variety of sexual topics to boost sales. Hooters marketing, emphasizing the Hooters Girl and her sex appeal, along with its commitment to quality operations continues to build and contributes to the chain's success."

Miss Bowen's anti-Hooters campaign began with a group on the social networking website Facebook and led to numerous letters and petitions, which gained the support of many prominent figures including the leader of Sheffield Council, Coun Jan Wilson, who said the "tacky and downmarket" chain would have "downgraded" the area.

"We decided protests weren't the way forward as we didn't want to alienate people enjoying themselves in the square", added Miss Bowen.

But while her campaigners may have won the battle, they may have not won the war, she admitted.

She said: "We're happy at the moment. This a great victory for the people who have had their say about this ridiculous proposition. But Wings Over England are bound to try and open somewhere else in our city and we need to say strongly no to Hooters in Sheffield."

John Mothersole, interim Chief Executive at Sheffield City Council, said: "We're pleased that Ask has listened to the views of the community and the council and taken the decision not to have Hooters in Leopold Square."

 
 
 

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