Some Evanston residents are mounting a campaign asking the city deny a liquor license to a proposed Tilted Kilt restaurant – a Hooters clone, they say, whose scantily-clad waitresses send the wrong message.
Residents have gathered close to 2,200 signatures calling on Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl to deny building owner Ted Mavrakis’ application for a liquor license for a Tilted Kilt on the ground floor of his Fountain Square building, in downtown Evanston.
Tisdahl is expected to rule on the issue within the next week.
Kathleen Flaherty, a retired civil rights attorney, started the petition drive, along with fellow attorney Cynthia Farenga.
Flaherty said the restaurant, whose uniforms are kilts to the knee for men waiters and micro-mini skirts and scanty blouses open to the midriff for women, “dumbs down human sexuality.”
“It turns it into something plastic, something dehumanizing, something incredibly boring and in doing so takes something away from us,” she said.
She said petition signers attached dozens of reasons for their opposition, including protecting the physical and emotional well being of children, fostering respect and equality for women, and preserving Evanston’s Fountain Square as a war memorial and town square.
Many of the biggest concerns focused on the effect such a bar would have on children.
At the Liquor Control Board hearing, Flaherty told commissioners that “Kilt Girl costumes and scripted behavior cast young women as naughty-but-nice schoolgirls and invite grown men to be sexually aroused.
“The T-shirts they sell,” she asserted, “show Kilt Girls draped on whisky bottles with slogans like ‘Goes Down Smooth,’ and ‘Soft Tail.’”
At the same meeting, Tilted Kilt representatives, as well as Mavrakis and his wife, Carol, said such statements gave a false perception of the restaurant, which they described as and “upbeat sports bar.”
The charges are “fear-perpetuating and bring more fear,” charged Mavrakis, a longtime landlord and building owner in the area.
He said had he had visited several Tilted Kilt locations that have opened recently in the area before deciding to open one.
“I didn’t see anything immoral or anything, he said. “These young ladies work there and they make nice tips in a nice, safe environment.”
He said he asked one young lady directly about the exploitation claims.
“She said ‘I feel great and I love the attention.’”
Mavrakis said the restaurant would require more than $1 million in renovations, would create 150 jobs and would bring a lot of traffic to an area feeling the effects of the economic downturn.
Since the petition drive began, Flaherty said she has been asked if she is a prude, and told that Evanston has a tradition of prudish women (The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union still has its home in the city.)
She’s no prude, she replies.
“To me, what Tilted Kilt does is feed us a plastic sexuality which dulls our appetites for the real thing,” she said.