New Hooters Excite Some, Turn Others Off

Posted: December 8, 2010 in Community Reporting, Food
Tags: , , ,

A new neighbor full of smiling women, a bevy of alcohol and 18 big screen televisions arrived next to East Towne Mall a year removed from shutting its doors across town.

The risqué beach-theme restaurant, Hooters, officially opened its doors on Sept. 24 bringing a bevy of reaction to the east side of Madison. Having to restart in Madison, Hooters knows neighborhood reaction, city legalities, and the benefits they offer in a downtrodden economy must be addressed. In evaluating these areas the franchise brings a unique mix of positive and negative attributes with its storied past.

Hooters history in and out of Madison

Established in Florida in October 1983, Hooters features a wide array of food ranging from chicken wings to seafood to accompany the alcohol and visual stimuli. The company is most known for their gregarious Hooters Girls, waitresses expected to entertain in addition to serving food, wearing tight white t-shirts and orange shorts.

The history of Hooters in Madison began in 1994 at 6654 Mineral Point Road neighboring the West Towne Mall.  The location also bordered a residential community bringing negative reaction to that spot 15 years prior. Although negative reaction on the west faded, the Hooters experienced turbulent years. The franchise set a company goal to seek a new location.

“We had been looking since 2004 to take it over to the east side,” said Doug Long, regional manager of Hooters in Wisconsin. “The west side location was not optimum for us because it was in the backside of the mall and it just didn’t fit into what at one time was a good location.”

A year after shutting down on the west side Hooters found a place they believe fits. More visible and closer to the interstate, Hooters pounced on the vacated Country Kitchen building at 2639 E. Springs Drive.

“We felt like this is a good location, easy access to the community with the mall around and hotels we feel like we have easy access for people who want to come see us,” said Long.

With the site selected, Hooters rejoined the city of Madison. Knowing the east side may bring similar reaction to the past opening, the company wasted no time.

Hooters in the Neighborhood

Hooters quickly embraced the prospect of joining the east side of Madison and a new neighborhood. The company sprung into action contacting local officials. Alder Joe Clausius of District 17, where the restaurant now resides, jumped on the opportunity to fill the unoccupied building.

“To me right away it was a win-win. I did two things for the district.  I eliminated a vacant storefront and I provided some much, much needed jobs,” said Alder Clausius. “The biggest thing we want to do right now is jobs in Madison.”

The new Hooters brings over 100 jobs to the district in Madison; adding to the 25,000 currently employed by over 450 Hooters restaurants according to the company’s website. The jobs consist of bartenders, cooks, managers and the previously mentioned Hooters girls.

Despite the fact the restaurant has brought new opportunities, others are not so glad this establishment joined their community.

“Personally, I would rather see a more family oriented restaurant in that location,” said the president of the Carpenter-Ridgeway Neighborhood Association, Randall L Glysch. “I don’t feel it brings a positive image to the community, its focus is very specific.”

Mary Polancih has similar sentiments to Glysch.

“I really think it sends the wrong message, I would put it in the same genre as Tilted Kilt and about one step from strip clubs,” said Polancih, “It’s not any place I’d frequent or let anyone I care about frequent.” Tilted Kilt refers to the Celtic themed sports bar with scantily clad women waitresses in Madison.

Long has yet to hear any negative comments directly about the restaurant. He feels Hooters largely emphasizes integration in communities, helping to thwart negative reaction. Hooters kicked off their Madison opening with a VIP benefit for the University of Wisconsin’s Carbone Cancer Clinic.

“We like to do philanthropic things through out the community and we do want to be a good corporate citizen,” said Long.  “All our employees, the stuff they get, we offer tuition reimbursement so being in a college town we feel that’s important for employees.”

With skeptical neighboring communities Hooters leaves no situation to chance, knowing they must go beyond local charitable work.

Finalizing the details

With the location secured, an alcohol license loomed as the final hurdle in reopening on the west side.

Owned by the actual corporation, Hooters of America, the franchise sent many executives including their general counsel from Atlanta and the vice president of training and development to present their case. Katherine Plominski, alcohol policy coordinator of Madison, was very impressed with their presentation for approval.

“What I was focused on were their alcohol policies.  They do have very strong corporate policies regarding use of alcohol, over-serving, IDing underage patrons,” said Plominski.

Working in favor of Hooters for this license was their previous establishment on the west side.  Due to no prior police instances or alcohol violations at the Mineral Point Road location, reestablishing authorization in the city went smoothly.  The Hooters of east Madison was permitted to serve alcohol in June.

The grand opening of Hooters of East Madison took place on Sept. 24, 2009. Only time will tell if the move is successful.

“They probably feel that being closer to the interstate will bring in more business, I’m not sure they will survive on the Eastside,” said Glysch.

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