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Chick-fil-A’s first UK restaurant shuts down permanently

The American fast-food chain’s plans to establish restaurants in the UK was met with fierce backlash from LGBTQ community

By Tim Heap

The UK’s first Chick-fil-A restaurant has now closed permanently following sustained protests from the local LGBTQ community over the fast-food chain’s links to anti-gay causes.

The US company made its first foray into the UK market in October when it opened a branch in Reading’s The Oracle shopping centre, but it was quickly met with activists protesting over its history of donating to anti-LGBTQ organisations in the States.

With the shopping centre opting to not extend Chick-fil-A’s six-month “pilot period”, the restaurant has now shut. It follows January’s closure of the company’s only other UK premises, in the Scottish Highland’s Macdonald Aviemore Resort.

The company’s affiliation to groups that advocate against the gay community has been the cause of ongoing boycotts from LGBTQ activists in the US, but Chick-fil-A recently doubled down on its stance.

In a letter to American Family Association – an organisation which promotes “traditional” family values – boss Dan Cathy clarified that Chick-fil-A would be cutting donations to anti-LGBTQ causes.

The clarification came after the company announced changes to their charitable endeavours, putting more focus on hunger, homelessness and education projects.

It was reported that this was a pivot away from organisations like American Family Association, but Cathy wrote: “We understand how some thought we were abandoning our longstanding support of faith-based organisations.

“We inadvertently discredited several outstanding organisations that have effectively served communities for years.”

In 2012, with regards to the debate around same-sex marriage in the US, Cathy said that those who “have the audacity to define what marriage is about” were “inviting God’s judgment on our nation”.

Celebrating the news that the Reading restaurant had shut its doors for the last time, Reading Pride CEO Martin Cooper told BerkshireLive that the protests were not solely about the company’s beliefs beliefs.

“We’re not that thin skinned,” he said. “It was about the reported actions, that’s where we drew the line and decided to act.”

Reading Pride previously 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.”