Chick-Fil-A's First UK Outlet To Close In 6 Months Following LGBTQ Protests

The Oracle, a British shopping center, announced last week it would not extend the fast food chain's six-month lease.

The U.K.’s first Chick-fil-A has announced it will close following backlash against the fast food chain’s history of donations to anti-LGBTQ groups.

The Oracle, a shopping center located in Reading, England, decided not to extend Chick-fil-A’s lease beyond a six-month pilot period, a spokesperson for the mall told the BBC Oct. 18.

“We always look to introduce new concepts for our customers,” the spokesperson said. “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 had been hit with protests from a number of LGBTQ rights groups since the Chick-Fil-A franchise’s Oct. 10 opening

Last week, Reading Pride released a lengthy statement on Twitter outlining its opposition to the restaurant chain, pointing out the American company’s acknowledged financial support of organizations with a history of LGBTQ discrimination.

“The chain’s ethos and moral stance goes completely against our values, and that of the U.K. as we are a progressive country that has legalized same-sex marriage for some years, and continues to strive towards equality,” the group said in the statement, which can be viewed below. 

On Saturday, the U.K. Pride Network and Newbury Pride shared photos and video showing LGBTQ rights advocates protesting against the restaurant just outside The Oracle’s entrance. 

In one photo, a group carried a rainbow placard that read, “GET THE CHICK OUT. Say NO to bigotry and hatred on your High Street.”

Chick-fil-A said in a statement sent to The New York Times and The Washington Post that the company had planned to keep the Reading location open only for a limited time. 

“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 the statement on Saturday. “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.”

Chick-fil-A added that it was “always looking and learning, and do so through pop-up locations,” but had no plans to share.  

Chick-fil-A has taken heat over its acknowledged financial support of anti-LGBTQ organizations for years. At one point, recipients of the chain’s contributions reportedly included Exodus International and the Family Research Council.

The company’s billionaire CEO, Dan Cathy, stoked outrage when asked about those donations in 2012, acknowledging his franchise’s “support of the traditional family” in an interview

Since then, Chick-fil-A has made repeated attempts to stem the backlash by pledging not to “have a political or social agenda.”

However, the fast food chain’s 2017 tax documents ― obtained by ThinkProgress in March ― found that the company had donated $9.9 million to charity, of which roughly $1.8 million went to groups known to discriminate against LGBTQ people. 

Rodney Bullard, leader of the Chick-fil-A Foundation, dismissed the criticism in a Business Insider interview published in May, saying the company’s donations were aimed at serving low-income and underprivileged children and “relevant and impactful to the community.”

“For us, that’s a much higher calling than any political or cultural war that’s being waged,” said Bullard, the company’s vice president of corporate social responsibility and the executive director of the company’s charitable foundation. “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.”