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Originally published September 11, 2009 at 12:13 AM | Page modified September 11, 2009 at 10:47 AM

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Retail Report

Hooters too upscale for us, some Renton, South Park locals say

Two Hooters restaurant casinos are scheduled to open in the next few weeks in Renton and South Park, and the debate raging in some quarters...

Seattle Times business reporters

Two Hooters restaurant casinos are scheduled to open in the next few weeks in Renton and South Park, and the debate raging in some quarters is not over how short the waitresses' shorts will be.

Instead, people are divided over whether Hooters is too upscale for working-class neighborhoods where the locals bond over $2 happy-hour beers.

"Some people think it will go bust in a heartbeat," said longtime Renton resident Liana Angeles, a regular at the R Bar, which sits across a strip-mall parking lot from the former Cascade Lanes & Casino that is scheduled to open next month as a Hooters restaurant, casino and bowling alley.

Others think customers will be attracted to better food and a more welcoming atmosphere, she said. The old casino was "dank, dark and not the kind of place I like to hang out."

Her husband, Felix Angeles, said he is "saving up already" for a visit.

Altium Development, the Chicago-based company that has owned Cascade Lanes in Renton and Rascals Casino in South Park for the past two years, hopes the new name and look will boost profits. The former Rascals site is scheduled to open as a Hooters restaurant, casino and dueling piano bar on Sept. 24.

"We had two casino properties that were under performing, and we think the marriage of the Hooters concept with Rascals and Cascade will make the businesses more profitable," said Dakota Shultz, a spokesman for Altium. "We've already had really positive feedback from our regular casino customers."

Altium bought the franchise rights for Hooters in Western Washington in May, and began operating the two existing Hooters in this part of the state, one on Lake Union in Seattle and the other in Tacoma.

Altium President Ed Pilarz, whose company also operates the Lummi Nation's Silver Reef Casino in Ferndale, said in a news release that 75 percent of local casino patrons are casual players, "so a restaurant with a casual, unpretentious and fun atmosphere is going to increase casino business and vice versa."

Hooters is a national franchise known for having young, attractive waitresses serve burgers, buffalo wings and beer while wearing short shorts and tight T-shirts.

Pilarz said that "the casino-restaurant concept works for Hooters because of the girls." The chain has only two other casinos — one in Las Vegas and one in Spokane.

The economy has been hard on Washington's 76 minicasinos, which can have no more than 15 game tables and are not owned by American Indian tribes.

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Net receipts for the group dipped 2.6 percent to $278 million last year, according to the Washington State Gambling Commission.

Evergreen Gaming, which owned 11 of the 36 minicasinos in King and Snohomish counties, is in the Canadian version of bankruptcy and appears to be losing ownership of most of its casinos to creditors.

The restaurant sector hasn't fared much better, as job losses and economic fears push people to save money by eating at home. Only 26 percent of restaurant operators reported an increase in same-store sales for July, up from a record low of 22 percent in June, according to the National Restaurant Association.

Based on prices at the Lake Union location, beer drinkers in Renton and South Park will be spared sticker shock. Domestic bottle and draft beers are $2.75 regularly, $2.25 at happy hour, a waitress said.

Kevin Healy, who works near the Lake Union restaurant, was not upset by his $8 lunch on Thursday.

"If you go to Red Robin, you're going to find the same thing," he said. "If you go next door to Daniel's Broiler, you're going to spend $15."

— Melissa Allison

Tidbits

Pacific Place shopping center in downtown Seattle has signed temporary deals with two retailers for the holiday-sales season.

Packaging Specialties, which sells gift wrap, cards and related items, will open in mid-November, where GameStop set up shop temporarily while its new concourse-level location was being built.

Top Ten Toys, which has a store in Seattle's Greenwood neighborhood, will open late next month or early November next to Packaging Specialties, in space formerly occupied by Club Monaco.

"Right now, we're thinking of it as a November-December experiment for them, and for us," said Top Ten Toys owner Allen Rickert. "We certainly thrive where we are now, and we're excited to see if we can pull it off downtown."

Pacific Place hopes to sign another temporary deal soon for the former J.Jill space on the third level, General Manager Lynn Beck said, declining to name the possible tenant. — AM

The nonprofit organization Goosefoot is opening a nonprofit grocery on South Whidbey Island that will be operated by the Myers Group, the Whidbey Island company that owns grocery stores including Kress IGA Supermarket in downtown Seattle. The plan for The Goose Community Grocer — site of the former Casey's Red Apple in Langley — is to reinvest proceeds in the South Whidbey community. — MA

Outdoor gear and apparel retailer REI has released its third-annual "stewardship" report, highlighting the co-op's social and environmental efforts in 2008. Among its stated accomplishments: 14,481 acres of land and 6,520 miles of trail maintained through investments in conservation and recreation nonprofits; LEED Gold certification for its Boulder, Colo., store; and a new employee-recruiting strategy focused on diversity. The report is available online at www.rei.com/stewardship. — AM

Walmart will open a supercenter store on Sept. 16 at 2301 Freeway Drive in Mount Vernon. It will employ about 600 workers, 320 of them in new positions and the rest coming from a nearby location that has closed. In Washington, Walmart operates 28 supercenters, 19 discount stores and three Sam's Clubs. — MA

Tully's Coffee has cut the price on its pumpkin spice lattes to $2.99 for any size until Nov. 4. Last year, the seasonal drinks cost $3.25 to $4.20, depending on the size. — MA

Retail Report appears Fridays. Melissa Allison covers the food and beverage industry. She can be reached at 206-464-3312 or mallison@seattletimes.com. Amy Martinez covers goods, services and online retail. She can be reached at 206-464-2923 or amartinez@seattletimes.com.

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Retail Report is a look at the trends, issues and people who makeup the dynamic and versatile retail sector throughout the Puget Sound region. Every Friday with Melissa Allison and Amy Martinez. Send tips or comments to mallison@seattletimes.com or amartinez@seattletimes.com.

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