April 2010 -- It's a naughty nurse smackdown! Recently the press has reported that Arizona's Heart Attack Grill has filed a lawsuit to shut down a new Florida restaurant called Heart Stoppers, which the Grill claims has swiped its intellectual property by featuring similar anti-health themes. Both restaurants include waitresses dressed as naughty nurses, reinforcing a tired stereotype of female sexuality that undermines real nurses' claims to adequate respect and resources. These culinary landmarks also seem to share the view that encouraging people to eat lots of fatty food and become obese makes the restaurant owners the revolutionary equivalent of the nation's Founders. Which ever way the court rules in this important case, we applaud Grill owner "Dr." Jon Basso for his tenacious efforts to close down other restaurants with similar themes, which we hope will at least limit the damage caused by the type of anti-nurse marketing that he has done since 2006. And let's not forget the Delray Beach "nursing director" who explained her Heart Stoppers visit this way to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "I heard they all dressed up as nurses and I wanted to check them out. At my hospital, they never let us wear fishnets." Fight the power! Please write to the owners of both the Heart Attack Grill and Heart Stoppers--one of whom, Iggy Lena, is a real-life paramedic--and tell them that there must be some way to make money without portraying nurses as bimbos.
Read more below or go straight to our letter-writing campaign!
John Tanasychuk's January 29 article in the Sun-Sentinel reports that Heart Stoppers Sports Grill opened just six weeks earlier, complete with "unfashionable menu items, such as Chili Chest Pain Fries and The Heart Stopper, a 3-pound burger," plus a heart defibrillator, a dialysis machine, tables that "look like wheelchairs," salt and pepper in pill bottles, and the bill presented "in a plastic first-aid kit." In addition, the Delray Beach restaurant's menu warns that "'consumption of our food will definitely lead to obesity' and there is a standing offer of free food to anyone over 350 pounds." And of course, let's not forget the "white-uniformed, fishnetted nurse-waitresses."
Sound too awesome to be true? Well, it might be, because Jon Basso's Fort Lauderdale attorney Robert Kain has reportedly filed suit in Florida federal court, noting "about 30" similarities in the two restaurants (including the preferential treatment of those critical over-350 pound customers), and asking that Heart Stoppers change the anti-health theme or close down. Kain explains:
Heart Attack Grill is the originator of the medically themed hamburger grill and restaurant. It sells high-calorie food products and we have had very extensive media coverage, including numerous shows on the Travel Channel and the Food Network. In my mind, we are just as well known as McDonald's. ... There's a rebellion against gourmet restaurants and healthy food establishments. And that's why there's so much interest on television.
Kain told the Sun-Sentinel that he already "shut down a Pensacola-area restaurant called Flat Liner Grill on behalf of Basso," noting that the Heart Attack Grill "owns five trademarks including 'Single Bypass Burger' and 'Double Bypass Burger.'" But Heart Stoppers owners Iggy Lena and Bob Kutnick have a lawyer too! This attorney, Eric Lee, responds:
Their theme is completely different. That's one of the reasons they didn't continue discussions with [Basso about a possible Grill franchise], because they weren't interested in his theme. They didn't steal the same trademarked Single Bypass, Double Bypass burger that he does. They didn't limit their menu like he does. They don't require their nurses to dress in a provocative manner. It changed the clientele from the Hooters-type crowd to a family-type restaurant.
Really? A family that wants to entertain the little tykes with wait staff like this? These "nurses" (right) may be a bit less "provocative" than the Grill's are, but they are naughty enough, with their short white dresses, high heels, and white stockings.
One of the coolest things about Heart Stoppers is that co-owner Iggy Lena (below) is a real paramedic. Lena, who worked in his father's restaurants before becoming a paramedic 10 years ago, calls it a melding of his two seemingly disparate careers. "I had a party of 12 people in the other night," said Lena, who will soon offer free in-house CPR classes." No one was under 70. Two of them were on walkers and they loved the place."
A "melding" of his two careers? (Three--he's also a real estate agent!) Well, we guess restaurants like Heart Stoppers probably do help to maintain a steady demand for paramedic services! And just when you might be thinking it couldn't get any better, it does.
Lynn Boyle, nursing director at nearby South County Mental Health Center in Delray Beach, said she was intrigued with the theme. "I heard they all dressed up as nurses and I wanted to check them out," she said. "At my hospital, they never let us wear fishnets."
No fishnets on duty? It's an outrage! To the barricades! We guess it's possible that Boyle is being facetious, winking at the idea that real nurses would want to present themselves sexually at work. But we're not sure how many readers will get that.
But media interest in this battle of the hamburgolutionaries extends far beyond Florida and Arizona. For example, on February 1, the Telegraph (U.K.) ran a shorter piece that seemed to be based on the Sun-Sentinel report. The Telegraph aptly summed the story up this way:
Two US restaurants are battling in court over who originated the medical disaster theme of serving food unhealthy enough to put diners in hospital.
As always, in discussing this and the many other naughty nurse images that continue to appear, we understand that it's "just a joke" and that these restaurants are not suggesting that nurses really dress or act this way at work. But even "jokes" can have an important effect on how people view the world, which is why they are among the most common ways that ugly stereotypes are spread and reinforced.
Naughty nurse imagery hurts real nurses because it reduces the profession to a tired sex joke and associates it with half-dressed young women. This is not about public displays of female sexuality; it's about relentlessly equating one struggling profession with female sexuality. That isn't exactly the type of image that's going to encourage men to become nurses, nor will it motivate decision-makers to allocate scarce educational or clinical resources. That's especially troubling in an economically distressed era in which nurses struggle to get the help they need to save lives and improve patient outcomes.
Studies have shown that the way nurses are portrayed in pop culture products does affect how people think and act. Just recently, a Dundee University (Scotland) study found that stereotypical television images of nurses as "brainless, sex mad bimbos" were discouraging academically advanced primary school students from pursuing the profession.
We suggest that these restaurants just substitute sexy angels and devils for the nurses. The wait staff can still be sexy, but since a quick route to the afterlife seems to be the real idea of these restaurants, it seems appropriate for patrons to be spirited out the door, or the world, by their choice of a sexy angel or devil!
We urge both these restaurants to consider whether they can help enough people slowly kill themselves without using naughty nurse imagery. Granted, undermining nursing does put lives at risk, since real nurses are college-educated professionals with advanced clinical skills that often make the difference between life and death. But really, guys--do you have faith in your food's ability to clog arteries and stop hearts, or do you need to rely on that same old naughty nurse crutch to help you? Are you true revolutionaries or not?
Remember: Political power grows out of the barrel of a bun.
After you have sent the email letter, please follow up by snail mailing to:
Iggy Lena and Bob Kutnick, owners
Heart Stoppers Sports Grill
1100 Linton Blvd. C-3
Delray Beach, FL 33444
Jon Basso, owner
Heart Attack Grill
6185 W Chandler Blvd.
Chandler AZ 85226