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After less than a year in operation, the Israeli branch of the U.S.-based restaurant chain known for its waitresses' scanty attire, Hooters, is closing down.

The Israeli branch opened for business with much fanfare and media attention on a 350-square meter site at Poleg Junction near Netanya in December 2007.

Hooters will become another grim statistic: Only two of every ten eateries that open in Israel survive their first year of operation.

The Israeli franchise owner Ofer Ahiraz said he is negotiating to open another branch, this time in Tel Aviv. He added that all the Netanya branch's workers received prior notice and they will receive their full salaries on time next week. But he declined further comment.

Two and a half months ago Ahiraz was reported to be seeking a business partner, and even negotiating with a number of parties, whom he declined to identify. He said he plans to open four Hooters restaurants over the next few years - in Tel Aviv, Rishon Letzion, Eilat and Haifa.

Ahiraz added that he is considering applying for a franchise license to open the chain in the Balkans as well. He has this option, he says, because of the U.S. home office's general satisfaction with the Israeli branch. Ahiraz denied rumors that he is seeking a partner to provide financial backing for expanding the chain.

The Hooters brand has more than 450 branches worldwide - 110 are operated by the chain and the rest are franchises. Hooters of America reported sales of about $1 billion in 2007. In addition to restaurants, the brand publishes a monthly magazine and holds an annual swimsuit contest with the participation of all its branches worldwide. An Israeli took part in the most recent ceremony last month.