The firstChick-fil-Alocation in the U.K. will be closing in six months. The Oracle shopping mall in Reading, England had entered into a six-month pilot period with theAmerican fast food chain, but announced Friday — only eight days after the fast food restaurant’s grand opening — that it would not be renewing the lease, according to theBBC.
“At the Oracle, we offer an inclusive space where everyone is welcome,” said a spokesperson for The Oracle in a statement to TIME. “We always look to introduce new concepts for our customers, 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.”
A Chick-fil-A spokesperson, however, says the company always intended to only be at in Reading for that six month pilot. “We have been very pleased with what we’ve seen in the U.K. in terms of customer response to our food and our approach to customer service,” a spokesperson for Chick-fil-A said in a statement to TIME. “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, an Atlanta-based company that has often made headlines forheartwarming stories of customer service, is owned by a family who, in 2012, faced backlash for their ties to millions of dollars ofdonations to anti-LGBTQcauses. The chain’s owners have publicly stated they support the “biblical definition of marriage.”WinShape Foundation, the owner’s charity foundation, had also donated $1,000 to Exodus International, according to tax records obtained by Equality Matters, an LGBT advocacy organization. Exodus International closed in 2013, but had been a proponent of conversion therapy.
The Reading restaurant opened on October 10, and Chick-fil-A told local newspaper theReading Chroniclethat “we are pleased to have already served several hundred customers in our first day.” But the backlash to its presence was swift, as local paperBerkshire Livenoted.
Reading Pride, a local LGBT advocacy group, had planned a Saturday protest against the mall. “The chain’s ethos and moral stance goes completely against our values, and that of the UK as we are progressive country that has legalized same-sex marriage for some years, and continues to strive towards equality,” said organization in a public statement.
Chick-fil-A declined to respond on the record to TIME’s question as to whether the company had been planning to extend the lease after the six month pilot period.
Write toJasmine Aguilera email@example.com.