BOULDER, Colo. - True confession: I once was a fairly frequent Hooters customer.
Note that I didn't say Hooters girl — all the plastic surgery in the world wouldn't qualify me for that waitressing role.
But long ago, in the late 1980s, just a few years after the wings restaurant got its start in Clearwater, Fla., I often grabbed a beer with the guys at Hooters. Maybe I was a trailblazer for those women customers the restaurant chain is now trying to attract?
I was working as a business reporter at the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville. Jacksonville Landing, a swank (to those of us on the business desk) new open-air mall opened along the banks of the St. Johns River. It featured men’s and women's clothing stores, a food court and restaurants, including, yes, a Hooters.
It was close to the office. The Landing was a fun place to stop. Hooters was right next to the water.
Plus, my social life mostly involved drinking beers with two of the guys on the business desk and occasionally some guys from sports. I was pretty much one of the guys.
Drinking a beer and even eating at Hooters didn't bother me. I was married, and didn't care much if my pals wanted to ogle the scantily clad, busty waitresses, though I don't recall that being the primary draw for them.
And it wasn't like the waitresses were trying to pick up my friends. Once one of the guys and I took an intern (female, no less) to lunch at Hooters. When the guy ordered iced tea, the waitress took a look at him and asked, "Can I bring you some Sweet'N Low?" as in, "You don't need any more real sugar, honey." The intern and I got a good laugh out of that line.
On the other hand, that same guy just loved to go to the Laura Ashley clothing store at the Landing. Maybe he was hoping to meet his Laura there? Or maybe he was just trying to get me to wear something other than T-shirt dresses.
The thing was, Hooters was convenient, the beer was cold, the food was okay. Jacksonville Landing still hosts the restaurant, and there are three more in the city — 52 in all of Florida. It's a popular place in that region.
For almost 20 years, though, I've lived in Boulder, Colo., a left-leaning, politically correct college town.
There was a Hooters restaurant in Boulder around the time we first moved here. But the chain didn't last long — women protested, men avoided the place.
These days, I'd choose a bar other than Hooters and I suspect my buddies would too. We've outgrown the place focused on baring breasts and booties.
But I wish the chain good luck attracting the lady customers. They'll need it.
Sandra Fish teaches journalism at the University of Colorado and has reported on politics in Iowa, Florida and Colorado. Follow her on Twitter at @fishnette