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Whip-Wielding Schoolgirls Too Hot for Belfast’s Puritans

October 25, 1995

BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) _ Whipped potatoes, OK. Whipped diners, no way.

A Belfast judge has rejected plans for a new restaurant featuring waitresses dressed as English schoolgirls _ albeit wearing short skirts and black-lace stockings, and toting whips.

Judge John Higgins ruled Wednesday that restaurateur Tommy Alexander’s plans to open School Dinners eatery in downtown Belfast would violate the lease by providing entertainment.

The entertainment: waitresses whipping patrons’ rears in mock punishment if they don’t clean their plates.

``I’m sure the decent people of Belfast will be glad. We don’t want immoral things in our city,″ said the Rev. Eric Smyth, a Free Presbyterian minister who is lord mayor of Belfast.

``This is not fun, this is filth.″

Smyth, a member of the Rev. Ian Paisley’s hard-line Democratic Unionist Party, demanded that two Belfast councilmen resign after posing for spankings.

Publicity shots of Sandy Blair and Jim ``Junior″ Walker being spoon-fed strawberries by waitresses sitting in their laps appeared on front pages of several regional newspapers. Both men gave the thumbs-up sign as they bent over a chair to take their punishment.

``Our lord mayor’s a fuddy-duddy,″ Blair said. ``He may well have a dirty mind too, but he ought to get a sense of humor to go with it.″

Walker, who was expelled from the Democratic Unionist Party over the affair, said School Dinners would cheer up downtown a scarred by IRA bombings.

``We have had 25 years where it has been oppressed and closed to its citizens. Now is the time for the fun to come flooding back,″ said Wilson. He said voters had come up to shake his hand after seeing the photos.

Telephone calls supporting the councilmen jammed the switchboards of local talk shows, far outnumbering the critics. The crush of callers joining a phone-in poll on the Gerry Kelly show Friday night was so great that the telephone company complained that it was affecting the 999 emergency service.

School Dinners organizers said they were determined to open up the eatery somewhere else in Belfast, and expect all the publicity will only help them.

A School Dinners restaurant has operated for 14 years in London with no controversy whatsoever. It also provides Chippendales-style waiters for women.

Belfast restaurateur Michael Love, who’s not involved in the new venture but has sampled the fare at the London School Dinners, said critics didn’t know what they talking about.

``Mock canings take place, particularly anybody who has a birthday. But it’s all done with the consent of the person involved. No one’s humiliated in any way,″ he said. ``You’re brought `to the front of the class,′ and asked to stand at a stool, and given a mock six of the best.″

Most criticism in Belfast focused on the waitresses’ uniforms: white shirts and striped ties like British private school uniforms on top, short black skirts and black-lace tights below.

The Belfast Telegraph, which published photos of the councilmen but cropped out the waitresses, said the restaurant would fuel male sexual fantasies about underage girls.

Businessman Jim Fitzpatrick filed for the court injunction two weeks ago after learning that Alexander planned to convert his existing Garden restaurant into School Dinners.

Fitzpatrick owns the Irish News, the city’s main Catholic-read newspaper, and the shopping mall where Alexander planned to launch school dinners.

``Yes it’s a sexy image, but there’s nothing seedy about it at all,″ said Sally McMullan, an Englishwoman who was to manage the Belfast operation.

She predicted it will open in a different location. But the Lord Mayor vowed to picket the place ``and will go farther if we have to.″

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