Chick-fil-A location at DIA paused after Denver Council cites chain's LGBT stances

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Chick-fil-A location at DIA paused after Denver Council cites chain’s LGBT stances

City Council members, considering new concession deal, say company’s past same-sex marriage stance causes concerns

By John Murray | Denverpost

A Chick-fil-A team member loads up orders at the restaurant near Southlands Mall in Aurora. Denver Council is debating on whether to let the restaurant chain return to DIA.  Andy Cross, The Denver Post File

A Chick-fil-A team member loads up orders at the restaurant near Southlands Mall in Aurora. Denver Council is debating on whether to let the restaurant chain return to DIA. Andy Cross, The Denver Post File

Chick-fil-A’s reputation as an opponent of same-sex marriage has imperiled the fast-food chain’s potential return to Denver International Airport, with several City Council members this week passionately questioning a proposed concession agreement.

Councilman Paul Lopez called opposition to the chain at DIA “really, truly a moral issue on the city.”

His position comes despite ardent assurances from the concessionaires — who have operated other DIA restaurants — that strict nondiscrimination policies will include protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

RELATED: Chick-fil-A flap: Read Denver council members’ joint statement

Robin Kniech, the council’s first openly gay member, said she was most worried about a local franchise generating “corporate profits used to fund and fuel discrimination.” She was first to raise Chick-fil-A leaders’ politics during a Tuesday committee hearing.

The normally routine process of approving an airport concession deal has taken a rare political turn. The Business Development Committee on Tuesday stalled the seven-year deal with a new franchisee of the popular chain for two weeks.

Should the committee reject the lease, an individual member — if one is willing — could introduce the concession deal in the full council. Ten of the 13 members attended Tuesday’s meeting, and none rose to defend Chick-fil-A, although some didn’t weigh in.

“We can do better than this brand in Denver at our airport, in my estimation,” new member Jolon Clark said.

Legal considerations

At the committee’s next meeting, Sept. 1, city attorneys likely will brief the committee behind closed doors on legal considerations affecting the decision.

City leaders in Chicago  attempted to block a new Chick-fil-A location for similar reasons three years ago, ultimately backing down after reaching an agreement with the chain. Mayors in Boston and San Francisco vowed to fend off any foray by Chick-fil-A into those cities. The issue  continues to flare on some university campuses.

But legal scholars often have come to the company’s defense, raising company leaders’ First Amendment rights.

The issue is new for the Denver council.

“This discussion — the way it’s unfolding here — hasn’t quite happened before in terms of a contract decision that you all have been asked to make, in all my years here,” assistant city attorney David Broadwell told the committee Tuesday. He said he was caught off guard by the controversy.

A previous Chick-fil-A franchise operated at DIA briefly a decade ago. This time, Atlanta-based Concessions International and Denver’s Delarosa Restaurant Concepts have a 60-40 partnership for a location in Concourse B’s food court, replacing a Steak Escape.

Mike De La Rosa, Delarosa’s president, said the licensing agreement requires sharing 7 percent of royalties with Chick-fil-A, a proportion that Councilman Albus Brooks said was lower than he’d expected.

“Any and all hiring, promotion — any and all of those decisions are made by us,” De La Rosa told the committee. “We have a long history of diversity, all those kind of things, between both companies. These would not be issues.”

In a statement, Chick-fil-A corporate officials said that their company is “focused on providing everyone great food in an atmosphere of genuine hospitality. We hope to welcome all guests to any of our locations, including a proposed licensed location at the Denver International Airport.”

Questions raised

Several council members — including four on the six-member committee — raised questions related to Chick-fil-A’s religion-influenced operation, which includes keeping all franchises closed on Sundays.

Most focused on political firestorms sparked by remarks made by Chick-fil-A’s now-CEO Dan Cathy, reaching a peak in 2012 after court decisions favorable to same-sex marriage. The company also came under fire for donations made by charitable arms to groups opposing LGBT causes.

Last year, Cathy  said publicly that he regretted inserting the company into political debates. Its foundations also cut back on donations to groups that some considered anti-gay.

Kniech asked De La Rosa, “If the national corporation with which you are affiliated once again puts themselves at the center of a national debate about depriving people and their families of rights, would you as a concessionaire have any ability to influence that?”

“I don’t believe so,” he said.

“I don’t think you would, either,” Kniech said. “And that’s my concern.”

Lopez compared Chick-fil-A’s past politics to divisive remarks made this year by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump about immigration and other issues, saying: “I would throw up in my mouth a little bit if we did business with Trump.”

Kniech, Lopez and other members said DIA’s reputation was at stake, although airport officials view the concession as a big potential money-maker.

DIA has estimated the restaurant’s first-year sales at $4.1 million, with $616,278 paid each year in concession fees. Chick-fil-A restaurants typically generate more in six days a week, DIA says, than most fast-food concessions that are open all seven.

DIA officials told the committee that they started with a dozen concession proposals for the space.

Neil Maxfield, the senior vice president of concession, noted that a 2013 survey of airport users “identified Chick-fil-A as being the second-most sought-after quick service brand at the airport, second to Chipotle,” which didn’t apply for the space.

11 Comments on “Chick-fil-A location at DIA paused after Denver Council cites chain's LGBT stances”

  1. Rosiland Fletcher

    Just because I don’t believe as you believe, I am denied my religious rights. It seems as if we are headed toward a dictatorship. Because we do not want God, He has rejected us. Look at us. “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” Americas needs to come back to God, not back to the church (building).

  2. James Cooks

    Stand strong in Christ Jesus and Never let sin back you down in any situation. If we say our Faith is in Jesus then let’s show it by not giving in to these people.

  3. Allthingspure

    It amazes me how politicians and those in other leadership sectors want to control Christian businesses yet as people of the faith we have no say about Amazon or other companies making charitable donations to the homosexual organization of their choice with our money, although we oppose gay and lesbian lifestyles. Seems we really have no societal rights around here anymore. What a double standard! As followers of Christ, it seems we are going to have to truly stick together and begin to do business in more unique ways. And it’s time to start withdrawing our support from these companies we know support ideas and practices we know our Father is totally against. This is a time of testing for us. Will we deny the flesh of unnecessary purchases? Or feed the need of our flesh to have things denying the precepts of our faith? Testing time is here!

  4. jack

    Remember to keep your joy when hearing of these things. Yesterday, I saw something that brought joy to me.
    A man on one knee, asking a woman to marry him, she said yes. I wonder do these folks realize, that if chickens had same-sex relationships, there would be no chickens to eat, and no concessions. Food for thought.

  5. Heath

    Romans 1:16-32

    16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

    17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.

    18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;

    19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.

    20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

    21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

    22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,

    23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

    24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:

    25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

    26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:

    27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

    28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;

    29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,

    30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,

    31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:

    32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

  6. Lille

    This is ridiculous. First off, if the company had a stance against something it is the company’s right to do so. The people who go to buy food will make the decision to eat there or not. I can’t believe how the enemy is continually creeping into all areas of life to smear the name of the people of God.. i pray that this company continue to support whatever bible based charitable groups they wished to support. I believe the Lord has blessed them for keeping closed on Sunday,taking a day in the work work to rest. God bless this company and may they continue to stand firm in their biblical beliefs. Amen

  7. Queenie D.

    Satan wants all of mankind, no matter the platform to bow the knee to his very real & obvious homosexual agenda. And will continue to publicly come against those in opposition of that agenda. Especially the Christian population and those alike who share any resemblance to opposition of the agenda. On a quick side note… Has anyone seen the endless amount of evil signs & references throughout the airport? So evil isn’t the issue, it’s not simply going along & not yielding to it that seems to be the problem!

  8. Bronzed

    I thought we live in a democracy where everyone is entitled to their opinions, especially where it involves their faith. No one should be intimidated into agreeing with something their faith and their God does not. All we’re obligated to do in a civil society is treat each human being with respect and kindness. Chick-fil-a does that.

  9. jack

    Granted, same-sex chicken relationships doesn’t make any sense. That’s my point, same-sex relationships in
    any species, is silly, selfish, and not productive. I get the point of the article, ideology controlling who can buy and
    sell. If this is not the mark spoken of in Revelations, then it’s got to be a first cousin. Still room and time though,
    even for chicken sandwich haters.

  10. Dixnote7

    The LGBT mentality has invaded the thought process at every level of government. That lost community fights and consistently wins to express themselves and force society to see it their way. Yet, when Chick-fil-A express thier viewpoint they do not have the RIGHT to do so? We are living on unstable ground, folks.

    Much prayer and witnessing is required for those who are willing to hear.

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