By Emily Koch
THE city council is investigating controversial restaurant Hooters after receiving complaints about a swimsuit contest held there.
On Wednesday night staff at the Harbourside restaurant, where the waitresses’ uniform includes tight white vests and skimpy orange hotpants, battled it out for a chance to represent the UK at an international Hooters show in Miami, in a competition which involved two rounds of bikini modelling.
But following the event the council’s licensing committee received letters of complaint claiming that the event was in breach of the conditions of Hooters’ licence.
Now the council’s licensing manager is discussing the contest with an enforcement team to see if there was a breach.
Hooters, which shares its name with the American slang for breasts, has drawn protests ever since plans for a Bristol restaurant were first announced in 2008.
The then city council leader Helen Holland described the American sports bar chain and its skimpy uniforms as “appalling” and “outdated”.
A campaign was launched by women’s groups to try and prevent Hooters from being given a licence for the Millennium Square venue.
One of the letters of complaint about Wednesday’s event has come from Bristol University’s Centre for Gender and Violence Research, and was written by Professor Marianne Hester, Dr Melanie McCarry and Dr Emma Williamson.
They said: “The premises’ licence was granted on the basis that the Hooters restaurant offered a family-friendly environment with ‘a uniform’ and that semi-nudity was not permitted. We believe that by holding a bikini competition semi-nudity was evident and therefore the licence breached.
“The lawyer representing the owners of the Hooters restaurant claimed at the licensing
hearing that: ‘There isn’t anything about this that undermines the protection of children. It is a restaurant with a uniform. Not a strip club’.”
The women also cited a condition in the licence that banned adult entertainment or “use of the premises that may give rise to concern in respect of children”.
The women said that by holding the event Gallus Management, which runs the restaurant, was in breach of its licence and called for an investigation and a review.
Councillors did not discuss a definition of the term “semi-nudity” when they included it in the conditions while granting Hooters’ licence in September last year.
Officers must now decide whether the bikini parades represented a breach.
City council spokesman James Easey said there had been “a few” letters about the event.
“Our licensing manager has written back saying that he will follow up with our licensing enforcement team and consider the impact of the activities on the conditions attached to the licence,” he said.
Gallus Management spokesman William McTaggart was unavailable for comment.