Watch: Chick-fil-A Opens First UK Restaurant - Announces Closure Nine Days Later

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Monday October 21, 2019

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson may have recently gone off on a wild rant about the horrors of a "terrifying limbless chickens" from a possible dystopian future, but don't expect to see him drafting up "Save Chick-fil-A" legislation any time soon.

The American fast-food chain opened its first UK location at a mall in Reading, England, on Oct. 10, and followed up just nine days later with an announcement that the restaurant will close after a mere six months, the Washington Post reported.

Chick-fil-A put a happy spin on its most recent lost business opportunity.

"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," a statement from the company said, reported the New York Times.

"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 abrupt decision was taken after a local LGBTQ advocacy group told the notoriously anti-gay American mega-franchise to "cluck off."

"We are staunchly opposed to Chick-fil-A setting up shop in the UK and certainly in Reading," local equality advocacy group Reading Pride tweeted, according to the Times report.

"The chain's ethos and moral stance goes completely against our values, and that of the UK as we are a progressive country," the tweet added.

Reading Pride was not alone in its opposition. Tweeted UK Pride Network:

"The whole UK Pride Organisers Network have a clear message to @ChickfilA
and that is "You are not welcome anywhere in the UK and we will stand up like we did today quite rightly telling you to Cluck Off if we see you again"

The BBC reported that the protests were the result of the company's support of anti-LGBTQ causes.

The Post noted that there were two different accounts as to why the company's inaugural location in the UK would be staying such a short time:

A mall spokesperson told the BBC that the company would not be allowed to stay beyond its initial "six-month pilot period," calling it the "right thing to do." But Chick-fil-A said it had always planned to operate there for only a limited time.

As EDGE reported earlier this year, the fast-food company had been called out for its support of a trio of anti-LGBTQ organizations.

Chik-fil-A waded disastrously into the marriage equality debate when, in 2012, CEO Dan Catty let loose with homophobic comments. The company has publicly distanced itself from Catty's remarks, but tax filings indicate that the Chick-fil-a Foundation gave almost $2 million to a trio of overtly anti-gay organizations, with the bulk of the money — more than $1.5 million — going to the fellowship of Christian Athletes, which ThinkProgress, which broke the story, said "is a religious organization that seeks to spread an anti-LGBTQ message to college athletes and requires a strict 'sexual purity' policy for its employees that bars any 'homosexual acts.' "

The other two anti-LGBTQ beneficiaries of the foundation's largesse were the historically homophobic Salvation Army, which reaped a contribution of $150,000 from Chick-fil-a, and "Christian residential home for troubled youth" the Paul Anderson Youth Home, which teaches anti-LGBTQ views to its clients, including a claim that two devoted people of the same gender formalizing their commitment through civil marriage constitute a form of "rage against Jesus Christ and His values," the ThinkProgress report noted.

That news reignited controversy around the company's stance on equality issues. Though the company continued to insist that it had stepped away from hot-button social issues, politicians and advocates on both sides of the debate continued to make the chain a flashpoint in the controversy around marriage equality and fringe-right conceptions of "religious freedom."

The company lost a pair of airport concessions in the wake of the controversy, one of which was at a San Antonio airport. When city officials quashed the proposed concession at the airport, the state legislature swooped in for an easy victory, quickly passing a "Save Chick-fil-A" bill that "prohibits the government from taking 'adverse action' against any individuals or businesses based on membership, support or donations to religious groups," as|reportedly looked into the issue.

Meantime, the quick and easy political points to be scored in the Chick-a-Fracas did not escape other pols around the nation. Montana's attorney general, Tim Fox, who is in the running for the governor's office in the cow-country state, invited the fast-food franchise - which primarily deals in chicken-based offerings, and which currently has only one location in the state - to throw a few more of its company doors open beneath the Montana's much-marketed "big sky."

Britain was evidently not so keen on the company's importation of chicken, American style. Indeed, England was wracked earlier this year with anxiety at the prospect of post-Brexit deals with the United States ushering chlorionated chicken to the British market.

ABC News reported that the company's announcement regarding its retreat from British shores took place after protests at the mall location of the UK outlet.

Watch the ABC News clip below.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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