Bristol Fawcett statement on the closure of Hooters, February 2012

Bristol Fawcett, together with many others, protested about and campaigned against the opening of Hooters on Bristol’s Harbourside in autumn 2010.

The Hooters brand is outdated and does not have a place in any modern city that values equality.  The men, women and children of Bristol always deserved better than a restaurant that served women up as sexual commodities on the menu alongside chicken wings and fries.  The Hooters mix of marketing offer, catering both to stag parties and children’s birthday parties, was particularly toxic.

It is never a cause for celebration that a business has failed, and we are mindful that people have lost their jobs.  We hope that whatever new business arrives to take up residence in the heart of Bristol’s historic Harbourside will be more in tune with the progressive aspirations of our city.

History of the arrival of Hooters in Bristol

There was considerable negative reaction to the decision of Bristol City Council's  Licensing SubCommittee to overrule police objections and grant a licence to open a "Hooters" outlet on the Harbourside, even though the premises fall within a Cumulative Impact Zone for the city.

The application for the licence was submitted by Gallus Management Ltd., represented at the hearing by TLT Solicitors.  The application made no reference to the material fact that the intention was to open a "Hooters" breast-themed restaurant.  This deliberate tactic ensured that the general public were entirely unaware of the nature of the proposed business until beyond the point at which the Council would accept objections.

The Licensing subcommittee met and made their decision on 1st September 2010, and only after that point were objectors then allowed to present a petition of almost 1000 signatures to Full Council (webcast here: representations from the public), and to make statements - see the Bristol Women's Forum statement here.  (At around the same time a Licensing Subcommittee of the council turned down a liquor licence for premises that were not in a Cumulative Impact Zone, having received a petition of 200 signatures.  It seems that some concerns are more readily assimilated than others).  

With the clock ticking as the opening date of Hooters approached, the Licensing SubCommittee did not publish its written decision until five weeks after it had taken the decision.  Read the written decision here.  Bristol Fawcett are not recognised as an 'interested party' under the law and were therefore unable to appeal the decision - but we took the step of obtaining legal advice concerning the licensing objectives - read our legal advice here.

Local residents, those who value the Harbourside as a Conservation Area, local families and gender equality bodies were dismayed by: what some saw as the underhand tactics of applying for a licence without naming the very specific brand; anomalies in the conduct of the licensing hearing; and a decision to award the licence in the face of police objections.  

Hooters opened on the Harbourside although opposition in the city remained strong.  Local protestors recorded their thoughts on a local blog as well as keeping tabs on the extensive media coverage of the issue, including the boycott and ongoing media campaign against Marks and Spencer who let their premises to Hooters.   The blog also set out advice for Bristolians who may have felt unhappy about attending an office party or other corporate event at Hooters.

In a response to calls for engagement between decision makers, officers, campaigners and researchers, the University of Bristol's School for Policy Studies hosted a public meeting in October 2010.  The meeting was attended by lawyers and licensing officers from across the south west region.  However, despite the opportunity to hear from research and social policy experts in the field, the Chair of the Licensing Committee (Councillor Poultney - who had been offered five alternative dates) and all but one of the Council's Licensing Committee Members did not attend.  At the meeting, the case of Hooters was discussed in the context of commercial sexual exploitation and its impact on society.  You can read the opening statement from Helen Mott of Bristol Fawcett, here.   The joint statement by Bristol Feminist Network and Bristol Fawcett, read by Sian Norris, is available here.  The statement by Dr Williamson of the Centre for Gender and Violence Research is available here.  Fawcett has a long tradition of promoting reasoned debate and the campaigns we undertake at Bristol Fawcett are always aligned to robust evidence and not ideology.  Fawcett's roots are as a liberal feminist organisation and it is therefore not without considerable thought that we have engaged in identifying commercial sexualisation as a very real impediment to women's equality, and a very real contributor to the culture of violence against women.  In this context, we are concerned by an ongoing resistance to opportunities for engagement and for informed debate when the subject of commercial sexualisation arises.

After opening, Hooters in Bristol went on to hold a bikini contest, and facilitated children's birthday parties with very adult themes. Details are contained in the petition which opened in May 2011 at http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/close-hooters-in-bristol-now.html
Over 1500 people signed the petition.

On 7th February 2012 the closure of Hooters was reported in the local newspaper.

Further resources
  • Bristol City Council Statement of Licensing Policy - click here
  • Bristol City Council Written decision and conditions of licence - click here
  • Home Office Sexualisation of Young People Review by Dr Linda Papadopoulos (2010) - click here
  • Report of the American Psychological Association Task Force on the Sexualisation of Girls (2007) - click here
  • See the menu bar on the left of this page for further references - an overview of objectification research (encouragement to focus on sexiness of women leads to women being dehumanised and belittled) - by Psychology Today here
  • A note on Hooters, sex discrimination and sexual harassment - here
  • You can find out more about Hooters by visiting YouTube and searching for stag party videos, or searching online for photographs of birthday cakes and birthday parties.