READING, England — The first Chick-fil-A restaurant in the United Kingdom will close six months after opening following protests among LGBTQ groups.
Owners of the The Oracle, a shopping center in the city of Reading, made the decision earlier this month, reported the BBC. A spokeswoman for the shopping center called it “the right thing to do.”
The six-month lease was deemed a pilot period for the store’s expansion into the UK, said Chick-fil-A in an email.
“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,” it stated. “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 email included photos of customers waiting in line.
Protests against Chick-fil-A erupted in 2012 after its CEO, Dan Cathy, expressed support for the biblical definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman. LGBTQ groups protesting in Reading cited that statement, plus Chick-fil-A’s support of Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Salvation Army, calling them hostile to the gay community, as their reason for opposition.
“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,” said a statement by Reading Pride.
Since boycott, protests began
Since protests and the call for a U.S. boycott began in 2012, the Atlanta-based restaurant has more than doubled its sales on the way to becoming the country’s third-biggest chain, behind McDonald’s and Starbucks.
In an interview with Business Insider, Chick-fil-A revealed it donated $9.9 million in 2017 (the last year from which tax returns were available). Rodney Bullard, vice-president of corporate social responsibility who also serves as executive director of the Chick-fil-A Foundation, said the restaurant works with more than 300 partners to focus primarily on lower-income and underserved youth.
“For us, that’s a much higher calling than any political or cultural war that’s being waged,” Bullard noted. “This is really about an authentic problem that is on the ground, that is present and ever present in the lives of many children who can’t help themselves.”