Chick-fil-A, the controversial Atlanta-based chain of fast food chicken restaurants, plans to open this fall its first location on Long Island, in Port Jefferson Station, the company said in a statement Friday.
Brookhaven town officials previously approved the location on Route 347 on the site of a former auto dealership. Local gay rights activists have protested the move on the grounds that Chick-fil-A founder Dan Cathy has publicly opposed marriage equality. Company officials have said it’s expected to be the first of many local Chick-fil-As.
“We…look forward to serving our customers fresh, hand-crafted food with genuine hospitality,” the company said in a statement, adding that it will be locally owned and operated. A representative declined further comment.
The restaurant will be one of more than 1,700 in 38 states, with the closest current location at New York University in Manhattan. Three years ago, Cathy said in an interview that he opposes gay marriage—a statement that sparked protests nationwide and highlighted his donations to groups sympathetic to that position.
“Chick-fil-A has a long history of being taken to task for its donations,” David Kilmnick, CEO of the Long Island GLBT Services Network, had told Brookhaven officials during a 2013 public hearing on the planned LI location, which Kilmnick opposes.
Cathy, who has made no secret of incorporating Christian values into his eatery—it’s closed on Sunday, so workers can attend church, for example—later expressed regret that his sandwiches became a symbol of the gay marriage debate.
At the public hearing for the LI location, a company representative tried to appease the critics who spoke out against Chick-fil-A, known for their cow mascots urging patrons to “Eat Mor Chikn”
“We’re not anti-anyone,” Scott Thigpen, Chick-fil-A’s director of restaurant development, said at the hearing. “We’re literally here to serve everyone with honor, dignity and respect. It doesn’t matter about their race, creed, sexual orientation.”
KOR, the developer behind the restaurant, plans to build a 4,600-square-foot eatery with seating for up to 120 customers and 20 more outside. The plan also includes a drive thru, indoor playground for children, a 186-space parking lot and another restaurant not affiliated with Chick-fil-A.
—With Rashed Mian