Retail giants Marks & Spencer were yesterday slammed for allowing a former store to be turned into a HOOTERS.
Campaigners have criticised the chain after it emerged that a property they still own will be sublet to the US restaurant.
Hooters – American slang for breasts – employ scantily clad women as waitresses who wear orange hotpants and revealing tight white vests.
The franchise has previously been accused of exploiting women and encouraging men to view them as sexual objects.
And yesterday, Marks & Spencer were accused of turning their backs on their ‘family friendly image’ after it emerged they had struck up a deal to rent out a surplus property.
One campaign group has even threatened they will face a huge public backlash as customers threaten to boycott the store.
The row centres on a site in Bristol’s Harbourside district which was once an M&S Simply Food store, and is now vacant.
The company still holds the lease for the store and agreed to sublet the premises to Bill McTaggart, a businessman who holds the UK franchise for Hooters.
And earlier this month, Bristol City Council granted a licence to open a restaurant on the site.
Sian Norris, founder of the Say No to Hooters in Bristol protest group, is fighting the proposed move.
She said: ”People say it’s just a bit fun. But it’s part of a culture where women are only seen as sexual objects, not as full human beings.
”This is a really regressive step for Bristol, we’re a tolerant city and it’s a real shame this has happened.
”There will be protests as people will be angry. It’s not over yet.”
M&S defended its move to sublet the site to Mr McTaggart’s company, Gallus Restaurants, claiming: ”This is a commercial decision.”
But Ms Norris hit back, adding: ”We can also make commercial decisions.
”A lot of people have said they are no longer going to shop at M&S. It’s each individual’s choice, but we would encourage that.”
Mike McNeil, spokesman for Hooters said: ”Hooters is committed to providing all employees with a positive, safe and rewarding work environment.
”Harassment in any form of any employee is not tolerated in the workplace.
”Furthermore Hooters considers those objecting to our presence in Bristol to be an extremely small but vocal minority and that their views do not reflect those of the community at large.”
The first Hooters restaurant opened in 1983 in Florida and the chain now has 455 outlets in 29 countries – but there is only one British branch, in Nottingham, which opened 12 years ago.
Its website features pictures from a recent “sexy St Trinian’s night” and a bikini contest.
In 2008, Hooters announced plans to open 36 restaurants in Britain, but the expansion has struggled to get off the ground.
A branch in Birmingham lasted a year and plans for a Sheffield outlet were cancelled amid local protests.
Hooters claims to promote an “element of female sex appeal”, while insisting its waitresses portray a wholesome “All-American cheerleader look”.
Anna van Heeswijk, of women’s rights group Object, said: ”We are deeply concerned that M&S, which brands itself as an ethical, family-orientated store, are supporting this form of sexual exploitation of women.
”They are based on the idea that women exist to look sexy for men, they promote negative stereotypes of women as sex-objects, and they encourage sexual harassment in what is promoted as a family setting.
”These messages are harmful and completely go against efforts to achieve equality between women and men, boys and girls.”
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