Antigay Chick-fil-A opens in Chelsea

At the Aug. 8 Chick-fil-A grand opening in Chelsea, there were no protests, just a line that wrapped around the block. (Photo by Gabe Herman)

BY GABE HERMAN | Chick-fil-A just opened a location in Chelsea, making it the fast-food company’s ninth in Manhattan. But despite long lines for the grand opening at Sixth Ave. and W. 22nd St. on Thurs., Aug. 8, not everyone in the area is welcoming the business, which has drawn criticism for its stance on same-sex marriage.

Chick-fil-A sparked a firestorm of protest in 2012 when current C.E.O. Dan Cathy expressed antigay marriage views and the company was found to be contributing to groups that opposed same-sex marriage.

There was backlash against the chain, including boycotts. Then there was backlash to the backlash by those supporting the company’s views. Cathy and the company then tried to pull back from public involvement in the gay marriage debate.

Although the issue is not as hotly debated nationwide now as seven years ago, the company’s marriage views have stayed in the news. Tax filings from 2017 showed that Chick-fil-A has continued to contribute to antigay groups, according to a recent ThinkProgress report.

But the Atlanta-based chicken-sandwich chain has continued to grow in recent years, including in progressive Manhattan. The company has been in the New York University food court at 5 University Place since 2004, and its first public location opened in Midtown in 2015. Other Chick-fil-A eateries have since opened in Midtown and Tribeca and on the Upper East Side.

People going to the new Chick-fil-A Chelsea location on its opening day. (Photo by Gabe Herman)

But Chelsea, in particular, is not a neighborhood where the chicken chain belongs, according to one local.

Chelsea resident Scott D., who asked not to print his last name, told this paper that he is “upset” about them moving into the neighborhood.

“They’re not the type of fast-food restaurant that belongs in Chelsea — a part of the city that is about inclusion and embracing diversity,” Scott said. “For years they’ve gotten away with homophobia, and have worked hard — and heavily funded efforts — to deny gay marriage, etc.

“I don’t have to support them and will not,” he continued. “But I know that the average person who knows nothing about their exclusionary history will go in and spend money — that’s the saddest part. They’ve excelled at taking any negative publicity and burying it while growing into the third-largest fast-food corporation in America.

“I believe there should be a lot of protests,” he said. “They come to suck profits out of New York City while preaching hate, and they don’t represent the diversity of New York.”

Council Speaker Corey Johnson, whose area includes Chelsea and who is openly gay, told this paper, “I hope as Chick-fil-A moves into an extremely L.G.B.T.Q. friendly neighborhood they use this opportunity to reconsider their outdated and homophobic stance.”

There were no protests at the Chelsea location’s grand opening on Aug. 8. Instead, there were only crowds coming for the food, and a lunchtime line that stretched outside and around the corner.

State Senator Brad Hoylman, who district includes much of Chelsea, Midtown and the West Village, told this paper, “I wouldn’t suggest, like Chicken Little, that the sky is falling. There’s been a Chick-fil-A at N.Y.U. for years now, in addition to stores in my district in Midtown.”

Hoylman, who is also openly gay, added, “Sadly there are plenty of C.E.O.’s who support homophobia and right-wing causes.”

He cited the planned Hamptons fundraiser for Donald Trump last Friday, at $100,000 a person, that was held by Stephen Ross, C.E.O. of Related, which owns Hudson Yards and other businesses, including SoulCycle and Equinox gyms.

“People can make their own decisions about supporting a business that has given millions to antigay causes,” Hoylman said. “But we should also be asking how they treat their workers, do they engage in sustainable practices, and are they good corporate citizens in New York City.”

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