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Saugus resident wants Hooters labeled adult entertainment

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Saugus,MA – from www.wickedlocal.com – The Board of Selectmen took no action on a citizen request to classify Hooters as an adult entertainment establishment.

Pearson Street resident Peter Vadala [pictured] appeared at a recent selectmen meeting to argue that Hooters should be considered adult entertainment, drawing a distinction between Hooters and a restaurant such as Hilltop Steak House or Papa Gino’s.

Vadala declined to state the name of the establishment he objects to, referring to it as “a business whose claim to fame is a slang term for female mammary glands” on Route 1.

Reading from a letter he drafted to the board, Vadala protested that Hooters uses an overt marketing model based on sex appeal that forces employees to dress provocatively, to flirt with customers and to accept jokes that can be inappropriate.

Vadala cited excerpts from the Hooters employee handbook as evidence to support his position that the establishment should be labeled as adult entertainment. He noted that one sentence asks workers to acknowledge they don’t find their job duties or uniform requirements to be offensive, hostile or unwelcome.

“A business that requires its female staff to flirt with customers is best classified as ‘adult entertainment,’ for lack of a better term,” Vadala wrote to the selectmen.

After stating his case Vadala asked the selectmen for support in crafting new zoning legislation that would prevent businesses he views to be adult entertainment such as Hooters from being misclassified as restaurants. He contended that Hooters falls into the category of adult entertainment and should be classified that way.

“I’m not suggesting you get rid of the trash, I’m suggesting you put it in its place with the right legislation,” Vadala said.

Selectman Stephen Horlick informed Vadala that eight years ago the Board of Selectmen denied Hooters’ application to open a restaurant in Saugus, only to see the decision overturned by a judge.

In 2003 the selectmen voted 3-1 to turn down Hooters’ application for a transfer of ownership and liquor license. Board members cited community opposition and concern that Hooters is a restaurant where innuendo and joking about female sex appeal are part of the work environment as factors influencing their decision.

But Hooters appealed to the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission and received a favorable ruling that paved the way for the Saugus opening.

“The judge overruled us and let them open,” Horlick said. “How do you go against a judge?”

Vadala argued that the point behind enacting zoning regulations is to protect a town’s character.

“The town isn’t a dump and we shouldn’t treat it as such,” Vadala said.

Scott Yarnall, area supervisor for Hooters of Massachusetts, said Hooters is a casual, laid-back restaurant similar to a Chili’s or Applebees.

“We are committed to providing an environment of employee growth and development so that we can provide every guest a unique, entertaining dining experience in a fun and casual atmosphere delivered by attractive, vivacious Hooters Girls while making positive contributions to the communities in which we live,” Yarnall said.

Yarnall noted that the Hooters concept has changed little over the restaurant’s 28-year history, which he asserted is a testament to its strength.

“Hooters is an equal opportunity employer, and complies with applicable laws prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, citizenship, age, veteran’s status, physical or mental disability, or any other basis protected by federal, state or local laws,” Yarnall said. “In addition, Hooters will endeavor to make appropriate accommodations for religious or known disabilities as required by law.”

Selectman Michael Serino told Vadala the town already has an adult entertainment district past Lowe’s and suggested that he speak to town counsel about any changes to the zoning on the books.

After a brief discussion Vadala agreed to take his cause to town counsel and thanked the board members for their time.

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