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Hooters eyeing spot in Modesto?

Proponents of a Hooters restaurant were eyeing a shopping center on Sisk Road in northwest Modesto for one of the chain's trademark bar-and-grills.

They lost interest when the city's zoning board denied a permit for a 65-foot-high freeway sign Aug. 26, said the owner of the center at 3037 Sisk Road.

But the Modesto City Council overturned the decision Tuesday, giving shopping center owner Steve Sanders a shot at luring the restaurant chain back to the site.

"We hope we can get the tenant back, as it has only been 30 days," Sanders said. He added that Hooters was looking at other locations in the Modesto area.

The site proposed by Sanders formerly was the home of Hungry Hunter restaurant, near Chuck E. Cheese's Pizza on Sisk. Atlanta-based Hooters of America Inc. did not a return a phone message Wednesday.

Sanders said his prospective tenant had signed a lease earlier this year and then canceled it because of the Board of Zoning Adjustment decision rejecting the sign permit. Reports for that meeting identified the tenant as Hooters and included a drawing of a Hooters sign.

The name of the prospective tenant wasn't mentioned at Tuesday's council meeting.

Sanders said the restaurant would create 60 to 80 jobs and generate up to $300,000 in annual tax revenue for Modesto. According to Sanders, the tenant said the sign promoting the eatery to Highway 99 motorists could make a 50 percent difference in the level of business it attracts.

Asked outside the board chamber why Hooters was eyeing Modesto, Sanders said, "They are in Sacramento, Fresno and Bakersfield. The natural thing is for them to be in this part of the valley."

City Council members said they were eager for the jobs and tax revenue when they voted to allow the big sign. If Hooters isn't lured back to the shopping center, the sign permit should help attract another restaurant chain, Councilman Dave Lopez said Wednesday.

"As far as marketing that location, the sign will make a huge difference," he said. "We are in a tough economy and our No. 1 goal is bringing jobs to Modesto, and we need the revenue."

Lopez said he wouldn't oppose a Hooters in Modesto.

Hooters caters to sports fans and is known for its hostesses clad in orange minishorts and tight T-shirts.

In 1993, franchise owners proposed a Hooters at Standiford Avenue and Tully Road. Groups including the Stanislaus County Commission on Women launched a letter-writing campaign to oppose the restaurant.

The women's group said the Hooters name, logo, menu with double entendres, calendar and hostess uniforms were degrading to women.

The franchise owners dropped plans for the site, citing financial considerations.

Yvonne Allen, a leader of the 1990s campaign, said she doesn't know if anyone would put up a fight against Hooters today.

"To me it is very degrading to women," she said Wednesday. "They try to portray themselves as a family restaurant, but that is disingenuous. Anyone who saw their calendar would not think it's a place to bring your children."

Modesto resident Tonja Conway tweeted her opinion about a possible Modesto Hooters: "It's not my favorite idea. But mostly I wish they wouldn't be right next to a kid-focused restaurant."

The Board of Zoning Adjustment didn't take issue with the Hooters name on the sign. To reduce clutter, the city's sign ordinance has not allowed a restaurant in a shopping center to have its own freeway sign.

Councilman Brad Hawn said the proposed Hooters wasn't mentioned at Tuesday's meeting because he thought Sanders was looking for a new tenant. He doubted the city could prevent a Hooters at the Sisk Road center.

"I don't know I would have anything say about it," he said. "It is a permitted use. It's a restaurant."

Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at kcarlson@modbee.com or 578-2321.

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