Just days after opening its first U.K. location, Chick-fil-A has announced that the restaurant will be closing at the end of its six-month lease amid pressure from LGBTQ groups. The American-based fast food chain had opened its first branch at The Oracle shopping center in Reading on Oct. 10, though it quickly faced backlash from various pride organizations over its affiliation with a number of anti-LGBTQ organizations.
“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 to the BBC.
Reading Pride, a local LGBTQ rights group, said the decision was "good news” and that the six-month period was a "reasonable request... to allow for re-settlement and notice for employees that have moved from other jobs.”
Addressing the closure in a statement to CNBC, a Chick-fil-A spokesperson said that they are “always evaluating potential new locations in the hope of serving customers great food and award winning service” and that the “six month pilot licensed location in Reading, UK is part of our exploration in international markets.”
The closure comes just months after a report from ThinkProgress citing the chain’s 2017 tax records showed that Chick-fil-A had donated nearly $2 million to three separate organizations – Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Paul Anderson Youth Home, and the Salvation Army – accused of having a history of LGBTQ discrimination.
The report, following Chick-fil-A’s CEO Dan Cathy anti-LGBTQ comments in 2012, immediately sparked backlash, with the chain responding by calling the report “a misleading narrative.”
“To suggest that our efforts in supporting these organizations was focused on suppressing a group of people is misleading and inaccurate,” their statement read. “It is well-known that our Founder S. Truett Cathy used biblical principles to guide our business in its formative stages, and that we still uphold those same principles today.”
“We believe that the ethos of, ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ accurately describes how we live and work every single day,” the statement continued. “These principles are lived out at our corporate Support Center in Atlanta and our more than 2,400 restaurants across the country. Some ongoing reporting, despite our efforts to earnestly provide the facts, implies a misleading narrative."
The chain added that it had decided to no longer donate to the Paul Anderson Youth Home, which reportedly teaches boys that same-sex marriage is a “rage against Jesus Christ and His values,” in 2017 “after a blog post surfaced that does not meet Chick-fil-A’s commitment to creating a welcoming environment to all.”