By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
But then the TABC appealed the decision. TABC officials thought Judge Vandergriff had salient points when he denied the beer license. So the TABC asked the Texas Attorney General's Office to appeal Judge Crowley's decision. The attorney general's office obliged. On June 26 the 2nd District Court of Appeals denied, once again, Hooters' beer license. Hooters again appealed. The Texas Supreme Court refused to hear the case. So Hooters applied for a second license.
"This is prima facie evidence toward Hooters' corporate arrogance," says Adam Vanek, the lawyer representing PCV for free.
Tarrant County Court at Law Judge Vince Sprinkle held the hearing to approve or deny the second license on March 12 of this year, one day after Hooters lost its first one. The session lasted eight hours. John Gessner and Steve Swander, Hooters' lawyers, said the restaurant had given back to the community (roughly $200,000 to numerous charities), stayed out of trouble (both with the TABC and the Arlington Police Department) and made the restaurant family-friendly (stop by on a Saturday, and it's like a Chuck E. Cheese).
Vanek said nothing had changed. It was still the same waitresses within the same restaurant, at the same location, in the same neighborhood.
Judge Sprinkle denied Hooters' license application. "The place and manner in which the applicant conducts its business warrants a refusal of the application based on the general welfare and morals of the people in the surrounding community, and on the public sense of decency," Sprinkle wrote. The community group with the pro bono lawyer had defeated the giant corporation. Again. "That was a big victory," Vanek says.
Despite three judges in three separate courts reaching the same conclusion, Hooters appealed.
On April 15, district Judge Jeff Walker upheld Judge Sprinkle's decision. "Nothing," he said, "indicates there's been a significant change [in the evidence]."
Gessner fumed. "In legal terms, it's a ho job," he said when asked about the ruling later that day. "I think [Walker] was lazy. I don't think he looked at the new evidence."
The new evidence is the restaurant's good behavior. For the two years it was allowed to sell beer--while the courts hemmed and hawed over Judge Crowley's decision to grant Hooters its beer license--the restaurant had no TABC violations. There were reports of crime, the Arlington police say, but nothing as serious as rape or sexual assault. And as for concerns that it corrupts youths, what about Mulligan's, the bar located less than a mile from Hooters with waitresses who dress in kind?
It's hypocrisy, Hooters spokesman Scott Wilkinson said. (Mulligan's is a bar, and the owner says one must be of age to enter.)
"The judge ruled correctly," Councilman Wright said afterward. Hooters is in a neighborhood near Martin High School, Wright points out. "I'm hoping Hooters will see the light. They can't keep coming back and taking a bite out of the same apple."
So they've found a different one. Vanek says the restaurant in southwest Arlington has applied for a hard liquor license. Gessner will neither confirm nor deny Vanek's statement.
For Vanek, for PCV, for seven of the eight Arlington City Council members who've supported the community group, continuing this battle is another show of Hooters' corporate arrogance. And its greed--beer sales make up roughly 25 percent of profits at Hooters. But for Wilkinson, fighting on is a must. There are, after all, the many letters of support.
As many as 10,000 of them signed by customers and siding with the restaurant have been dumped by Hooters officials onto the steps of City Hall and the desks of Congressman Joe Barton and state Representative Zedler. (Yet Zedler claims only a few of the letters he received contained local addresses. Hooters says otherwise. )
He filled them in. They said they come to Hooters a lot. And their morals could be corrupted much easier by satellite television or the Internet.
What the Hooters waitresses wear--that isn't bad at all. "Some people at school dress worse than that," said Taylor Shan, a sophomore.
"Some people's moms dress trashier than that," said junior Justin Holleston.
The other four started laughing.
"What? They do!" he said.
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