The UK's First Chick-fil-A Has Announced Its Closure After Just Eight Days
Protests continued last weekend even after Chick-fil-A stated that it will be packing up its waffle fries and pickle slices in six months.
Oct 22 2019, 7:42pm
Photo: Getty Images
In mid-2011, Kim Kardashian was married to then-New Jersey Nets player Kris Humphries for all of 72 days. In the summer of 2017, Anthony Scaramucci served as the White House Communications Director for 10 days. But it only took eight days for the first Chick-fil-A in the United Kingdom to announce that it would be closing at the end of its ultra-brief contract.
On October 10, the Chick-fil-A opened at the Oracle shopping center in Reading, a town of more than 218,000 in southern England. The restaurant was almost immediately protested by Reading Pride, an LGBTQ advocacy organization. "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 group said in a statement.
Chick-fil-A has been criticized for its anti-LGBT attitude since CEO Dan Cathy talked to two news outlets about his opposition to same-sex marriage back in 2012. "We are very much supportive of the family—the biblical definition of the family unit," he told the Biblical Recorder. "We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families. We are very much committed to that [...] We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles."
According to Think Progress, in 2017, the Chick-fil-A Foundation gave more than $1.6 million to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), $6,000 to the Paul Anderson Youth Home, and $150,000 to the Salvation Army—all three of which have been accused of discrimination toward the LGBTQ community. (Chick-fil-A said that 2017 would be the last year that it donated to the Paul Anderson Youth Home—which has historically taught young men that it's wrong to be gay—but that it would continue to support the other two.)
Jennie Rigg, former chair of the LGBT+ Liberal Democrats, also spoke out against the chain. "In terms of ethical shopping, I'm not going to give my money to a company that will give their money to people who want to eradicate people like me," she told the BBC.
At first glance, it looks like the fact that Reading didn't roll out a universal welcome mat got the shopping center's attention. "We always look to introduce new concepts for our customers, however, we have decided on this occasion that the right thing to do is to only allow Chick-fil-A to trade with us for the initial six-month pilot period, and not to extend the lease any further," the Oracle said in a statement.
But in a statement to VICE, the Atlanta-based chicken purveyor said that the restaurant was never supposed to extend beyond its initial six-month lease. "We have been very pleased with what we’ve seen in the UK in terms of customer response to our food and our approach to customer service. 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," the company said. (A spokesperson also said that the story had been "mischaracterized" because, despite the controversy, its customers had still enthusiastically welcomed the Reading location. Chick-fil-A also sent two photos that showed lines stretching out the door and into the shopping center itself.)
Although Chick-fil-A announced on Friday that it would be packing up its waffle fries and pickle slices in six months, Reading Pride went ahead with the protest it had planned for Saturday. It also promised to continue protesting until the restaurant actually closed for good.
"We're here to inform the community in Reading what has been allowed to set up in our town. It's a business based on anti-LGBT beliefs," Martin Cooper, the head of Reading Pride, said on Saturday. "If it was just beliefs, we probably wouldn't be here protesting. It's about the active engagement and where their profits are going."
In the meantime, KFC has 14 locations in Berkshire, the county that includes Reading. There's plenty of controversy-free chicken to go around, too.