Chick-fil-A has shuttered its first U.K. location after boycotts and protests by LGBTQ2 rights activists.
The U.S. fast-food chicken joint opened a location in Reading shopping mall The Oracle on Oct. 10. Just over one week later, the company has said it will be closing within six months.
A spokesperson for the mall told the BBC that the restaurant’s closing is the “right thing to do,” adding that it wouldn’t be allowed to stay open beyond its “six-month pilot period.”
“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’s full statement reads.
Global News reached out to Chick-fil-A for comment but did not hear back by publication time.
According to Chick-fil-A, the exit from the mall won’t be stifling its plans for international expansion.
“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 to media over the weekend.
“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.”
Local organization Reading Pride was part of a protest over Chick-fil-A opening in the city.
On Oct. 19, UK Pride Network posted up near the location. In a video of the protest posted to social media, an organizer can be heard saying: “You are not welcome anywhere in the U.K., and we will stand up, like we did today, quite rightly telling you to cluck off if we see you again.”
The group first announced its view of the company on Oct. 14, when the group tweeted that it was “staunchly opposed to Chick-fil-A setting up shop in the U.K. and certainly in Reading.”
— Reading Pride (UK) (@Reading_Pride) October 14, 2019
A similar reaction was seen when Chick-fil-A first opened a shop in Toronto in September.
Over 100 protesters crashed the grand opening with signs reading “cluck off.”
The 519, an organization dedicated to advocacy for the inclusion of LGBTQ2 communities, along with LiberationTO and animal rights activists, made up the protest group and stood outside with signs, photos and chants.
“When we have an increasing global climate and rhetoric around hate-fuelled values, this is about taking a stand against that,” Jaymie Sampa, the 519’s manager of anti-violence initiatives, told Global News at the time.
Signs that read “Chuck-off” and “Freedom for All. Justice for Animals” were seen, and chants of “shame” and “Hey, hey, ho, ho, homophobia has got to go” could be heard coming from the group.
The controversy first heated up after Think Progress reported that the Chick-fil-A Foundation donated millions of dollars to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Paul Anderson Youth Home and the U.S. Salvation Army.
All three organizations have been accused in the past of being discriminatory. The Fellowship of Christian Athletes, for example, bans employees from “homosexual acts” and has a strict “sexual purity” policy.
The progressive organization also reported at the time that Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong, while the Salvation Army has “a long record of opposing legal protections for LGBTQ Americans.”
According to the Guardian, Chick-fil-A also once donated money to Exodus International, known for offering gay “conversion therapy” before shutting down in 2013 and apologizing.
The chain restaurant previously told the BBC: “Our giving has always focused on youth and education. We have never donated with the purpose of supporting a social or political agenda. There are 145,000 people — black, white; gay, straight; Christian, non-Christian — who represent Chick-fil-A.”
Chick-fil-A’s chief executive, Dan Cathy, first stirred controversy in 2012 after being asked by Baptist Press about his views on traditional family values.
“We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit,” Cathy responded. “We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.”
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