The debut UK site for American fast food chain Chick-fil-A is set to close its doors following backlash over the owner’s anti-LGBTQ stance.
The restaurant, best known for its fried chicken sandwiches, chose Reading for its first UK location, opening at the Oracle shopping centre. The site officially opened on 10 October, but just eight days later, the venue announced that it would not be extending Chick-Fil-A’s lease beyond the initial six month period.
In recent years, Chick-fil-A has received backlash from customers due to the actions of chief executive Mr Cathy and his late father Samuel, who have both publicly made donations towards anti-LGBTQ groups.
Following Mr Cathy Jr’s public stance against same sex marriage in 2012, a series of kiss-ins were staged at branches of Chick-fil-A, while some same sex couples even decided to tie the knot outside of the restaurants as a form of protest. Speaking about same sex marriage, Samuel Cathy Jr 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 Snr is also reported to have used Chick-fil-A profits to fund charities such as Exodus International, a group which promotes gay conversion therapy.
Following the news that a branch of Chick-fil-A would open in the city, Reading Pride called for a boycott of the company. In a statement, they 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."
Announcing its decision to not extend Chick-fil-A’s lease, Oracle steered clear of condemning the company. “We always look to introduce new concepts for our customers” they said in a statement. “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 restaurant itself also denied that the closure is due to their owner’s stance of LGBTQ issues. They 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."
If you fancy getting your fried chicken at less controversial places, check out the best London restaurants for fried chicken.