The first UK branch of a popular American Christian-owned chicken restaurant is set to close following a backlash over its owner’s stance on LGBT rights.
Chick-fil-A opened its first branch of the fast-food chain in Reading on 10th October, however, it was revealed that the outlet would be temporary eight days later.
The opening in the Oracle shopping centre prompted harsh criticism from LGBT groups due to comments made by the founder’s Christian son.
Both chief executive Dan Cathy and his late father Samuel, who founded the chain in 1946, have publicly made donations towards Christian charities that oppose LGBT lifestyles.
In 2012, Dan Cathy confirmed that Chick-fil-A does not support same-sex marriage as it opposes the company’s Christian values.
“We are very much supportive of the family – the biblical definition of the family unit,” he told Baptist Press. “We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.
“We operate as a family business…our restaurants are typically led by families. We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families.
“We are very much committed to that,” Mr Cathy emphasised.
“We’re inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage,” he added.
Following Mr Carty’s comments, LGBT people began a series of boycotts, kiss-ins and same-sex marriages outside the restaurants across the US.
The company has provided $1.9 million (£1.4 million) to the international non-profit Christian sports ministry Fellowship of Christian Athletes. FCA’s mission is ‘to lead every coach and athlete into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church’. Its vision is ‘to see the world transformed by Jesus Christ through the influence of coaches and athletes’.
After Chick-fil-A announced its plans for its Reading branch, the decision was condemned by LGBT rights groups across the UK.
Reading Pride said: ‘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 legalised same-sex marriage for some years and continues to strive towards equality.’
The group organised protests against the restaurant and called for a boycott of the company.
Last week, the Oracle announced that it would not extend Chick-fil-A’s initial six-month lease.
A statement from the Oracle said: ‘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.’
A Reading Pride protest went ahead last Saturday morning despite the announcement.
The restaurant has denied the future closure is related in any way to Mr Cathy’s views on LGBT rights or charity donations.
Picture: Drink and sandwich containers are seen at a Chick-fil-A restaurant. (CNS/Rashid Umar, Reuters).