The Washington Post, by Brittany Shammas: Chick-fil-A opened the doors of its first United Kingdom restaurant Oct. 10, marking the popular but controversial chicken chain’s second location outside the United States as it seeks to expand internationally. Nine days later, the company announced that it will close the location within six months.
The news came as an LGBTQ group held protests outside the brand-new restaurant at the Oracle Mall in Reading, denouncing the company’s opposition to same-sex marriage. A mall spokesperson told the BBC that the company would not be allowed to stay beyond its initial “six-month pilot period,” calling it the “right thing to do.” But Chick-fil-A said it had always planned to operate there for only a limited time.
“We have been very pleased with the lines since opening Oct. 10 and are grateful for customer response to our food and our approach to customer service,” the company said in an email Saturday, including photos of customers waiting in line. “We mutually agreed to a six-month lease with the Oracle Mall in Reading as part of a longer term strategy for us as we look to expand our international presence.”
Reading Pride, a U.K.-based LGBTQ advocacy group, announced its stance against the restaurant’s opening Oct. 14. In a statement shared on Twitter, the group said it was “staunchly opposed to Chick-fil-A setting up shop in the UK and certainly in Reading.”
“The chain’s ethos and moral stance goes completely against our values, and that of the UK, as we are a progressive country that has legalized same-sex marriage for some years and continues to strive towards equality,” the statement said.
The group cited infamous comments Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy made in 2012 about believing in the “biblical definition of the family unit.” It also pointed to the company’s donations to organizations such as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which says in its statement of faith that marriage is “exclusively the union of one man and one woman.”
Chick-fil-A has defended its giving, telling Business Insider that the money given to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes funds camps its foundation has hosted through a partnership with the organization.
“These kids are important to us,” Rodney Bullard, the company’s vice president of corporate social responsibility, told Business Insider. “We develop relationships with them over the years [so that when] there is a crisis, they actually come to people, in part to people in our staff.”
Protests of the U.K. location continued Saturday even as news spread that the location would close. In videos shared on social media, activists waved rainbow flags and used a microphone to announce that Chick-fil-A is “not welcome here.”
“You may be closing down six months’ time, but we have a message for you,” one man said. “You will not be opening anywhere else in the U.K. And if we do see you on our soil, we will stand up and we will challenge you again.”
“But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter. . . . And they said, Stand back. And they said again, This one fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs be a judge: now will we deal worse with thee, than with them. And they pressed sore upon the man, even Lot, and came near to break the door.” Genesis 19:4, 9.