UK’s first Chick-fil-A restaurant announces closure eight days after opening following LGBT+ rights backlash

Firm condemned by rights groups across the UK

Jess Glass
Friday 18 October 2019 23:32 BST
Reading's Chick-fil-A restaurant only opened on 10 October.
Reading's Chick-fil-A restaurant only opened on 10 October. (Getty Images)

The first UK branch of a popular American 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 October 10, 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 son.

Both chief executive Dan Cathy and his late father Samual, who founded the chain in 1946, have publicly made donations towards anti-LGBT+ groups.

After Mr Cathy Jr publicly opposed same-sex marriage in 2012, LGBT+ people began a series of boycotts, kiss-ins and same-sex marriages outside the restaurants across the US.

He said: "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."

Samuel Cathy used Chick-fil-A profits to fund charities including Exodus International, a group which promoted gay and transgender conversion therapy.

His son has also been accused of recently providing $1.9m (£1.4m) to the charity Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which opposes same-sex relationships.

After the firm 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.

The Oracle has now announced that it would not extend Chick-fil-A's initial six-month lease.

"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," it said in a statement.

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Reading Pride said it still plans to hold a protest on Saturday morning despite the announcement and will continue to protest against the restaurant until it closes in six months' time.

The restaurant has denied the future closure is related in any way to Mr Cathy's views on LGBT+ rights or charity donations.

A Chick-fil-A spokesperson said: "We have been very pleased with what we've seen in the UK in terms of customer response to our food and our approach to customer service. We mutually agreed to a six-month lease with the Oracle in Reading as part of a longer-term strategy for us as we look to build a permanent presence in the UK."

The company did not respond to further requests for comment.

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