U.K.’s First Chick-fil-A to Close Following LGBTQ Protests
American fast-food chain Chick-fil-A recently ventured across the pond to the United Kingdom — but the controversial chicken restaurant won’t last long.
Soon after opening Oct. 10, Chick-fil-A’s restaurant at the Oracle Mall in Reading, a town in Berkshire, announced it will close after its six-month lease expires, according to the BBC, with the mall saying in a statement it was the “right thing to do.”
The suburban eatery faced protests from activists who took issue with the company’s track record on LGBTQ rights.
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Prior to the closure announcement, Reading Pride, a local LGBTQ advocacy group, said it was “staunchly opposed” to the restaurant opening in the U.K., “and certainly in Reading.”
“The chain’s ethos and moral stance goes completely against our values, and that of the U.K. as we are a progressive country that has legalized same sex marriage for some years, and continues to strive toward equality,” its statement read. “We respect everyone’s freedom to eat where they choose, however, we ask the LGBT+ community (including allies) to boycott the chain in Reading.”
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Protesters gathered outside the chain Friday — but they had already won. A day before the protest, the BBC broke the news that the Chick-fil-A branch would only stay for six months. The chain claimed in a statement to The Washington Post, however, that it had only ever planned to be in Reading for six months.
“Chick-fil-A have subsequently stated they’d not planned to stay past 6 months, but what business would not stay if they were successful and profitable?” Martin Cooper, CEO of Reading Pride, said in an email to NBC News. “The point is, they’ve not been given the option to stay by the landlords, The Oracle.”
Matt Rodda, a member of Parliament for Reading, also praised the move in a tweet, saying he was “pleased” that the mall “listened” to activists.
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In the United States, Chick-fil-A has more than 2,400 restaurants across the country, but the chain frequently faces protests from LGBTQ activists over its record on gay rights. Before the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2015, Chick-fil-A lent support to organizations that worked to ban same-sex marriage and roll back LGBTQ rights.
Earlier this year, local activism foiled Chick-fil-A’s plans to open restaurants at airports in Buffalo, New York, and San Antonio. In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott responded by signing legislation dubbed the “Save Chick-fil-A” bill, which prohibits government entities from taking “adverse actions” against businesses or individuals because of their religious beliefs or moral convictions.
While Chick-fil-A did not immediately respond to NBC News’ request for comment Monday regarding its Reading location, in a previous statement, the company claimed its “restaurants welcome and embrace all people, regardless of … sexual orientation or gender identity.”