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Hooters Workers Suddenly Dismissed As Irish Pub Is Planned

on June 02, 2010 5:58 PM

UPDATED @ 5:58 p.m. Wednesday: A former State College Hooters employee says the restaurant's staff was abruptly terminated over the Memorial Day weekend. About 10 cooks and 20 to 30 "Hooters girls" were let go with little notice, she says. The story below has been updated with her comments.

A Kildare's Irish Pub is slated to open at 538 E. College Ave. by late August, replacing the Hooters restaurant that had been there, the Kildare's CEO said Tuesday.

"The orange Hooters banner will be gone forever," said Dave Magrogan, CEO of the West Chester-based Kildare's group. He said the pub in downtown State College will be the eighth Kildare's, a flagship operation as the company establishes itself near large college campuses in several states.

Other Kildare's pubs are on track to open near Ohio State, Notre Dame and Michigan State, among other major universities, Magrogan said. He said "complete top-to-bottom" renovations at the former Hooters building here will begin within several days.

"Our pubs really try to capture the true spirit of Ireland," said Magrogan, visiting the East College Avenue location. He said he'll soon travel to Ireland to buy furnishings and fixtures, including antiques, for the downtown restaurant.

Notices posted on the former Hooters building, noted Tuesday by the Centre Daily Times, show that the adjacent Hooters bottle shop will continue to operate from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. as renovations are under way.

The liquor license that had been in place for Hooters, owned locally by Nittany Owl Wings LLC, is being transferred for use by the Kildare's group, according to a public notice.

Magrogan said the local ownership group is retaining the real estate, which will be rented to Kildare's. Neither Nittany Owl Wings nor the Hooters company could be reached immediately for comment.

But a former Hooters employee, Jess Bifano, said the restaurant closed suddenly over the Memorial Day weekend. She had been scheduled to work Saturday, but got a call telling her not to come in, Bifano said.

She estimated that 10 cooks and 20 to 30 "Hooters girls" were let go immediately.

"We're all trying to find other jobs," said Bifano, who has picked up some extra shifts at the Hooters restaurant in Altoona. "Everyone's been hanging out and having barbecues because they don't have any work."

Bifano said the employees were not told exactly why Hooters closed. She said business at the restaurant had not seemed strong except during football season.

"We all kind of knew it was a matter of time before it closed," Bifano said. "We just didn't know it would be as sudden."

Hooters had been in State College about 10 years.

Meanwhile, Kildare's has been looking to open an establishment near the Penn State University Park campus for about four years, Magrogan said. He said the pub will be "very kid-friendly" and hire about 75 employees. (Applications are available at the on-site bottle shop.)

The Kildare's pubs, already well recognized in the Philadelphia area, are known for authentic Irish fare, including Sunday brunches.

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