NATIONAL NEWS

New York bill could interfere with Chick-fil-A’s long-standing policy to close Sundays

Dec 22, 2023, 6:04 AM

FILE: Chick-fil-A restaurant. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)...

FILE: Chick-fil-A restaurant. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York lawmakers have introduced a bill that would require restaurants in state highway system rest areas to operate seven days a week, a measure apparently aimed at interfering with a policy at the fast food chain Chick-fil-A of staying closed on Sundays.

The bill, introduced last week, is yet another salvo in a yearslong political battle involving the company, whose late founder Truett Cathy infused its business practices with his conservative Christian values.

Loved by many for its chicken sandwiches, but disliked by others over its founder’s opposition to same-sex marriage, Chick-fil-A has always kept its locations closed on Sundays so employees can enjoy time with their families and “worship if they choose,” according to the company’s website.

While the bill, if passed, would apply to all restaurants, Chick-fil-A is mentioned by name in some written legislative materials explaining the justification for the proposed law.

State Assemblymember Tony Simone, the Democrat who introduced the bill, said it is meant to give travelers in New York a variety of food options, including healthy foods, at rest stops, rather than an effort to eventually push Chick-fil-A out.

“Look, if you want to eat fried chicken while traveling over the holidays, then Chick-fil-A should be open on Sundays,” Simone said.

The bill wouldn’t immediately apply to restaurants currently operating — meaning the impact on existing Chick-fil-A locations would be limited — but would affect all future contracts for food concessions at transportation facilities owned by the state and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. It would exclude temporary concessions, like farmer’s markets.

Email and phone messages left for Chick-fil-A spokespeople were not immediately returned.

Chick-fil-A became the subject of boycotts in 2012 over its deep financial support of groups opposing the legalization of same-sex marriage. Over the years the chain, which operates more than 3,000 restaurants, scaled back that financial support before ending it in 2019.

In the past, airports in Buffalo and San Antonio, Texas, have blocked Chick-fil-A from opening at their sites. Some college campuses have also banned the chain.

Some conservative lawmakers, meanwhile, rallied behind the company. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, signed a bill in 2019 in defense of Chick-fil-A and religious freedom.

The New York bill’s introduction was prompted by a redevelopment project underway at the New York State Thruway Authority’s 27 service areas. Through the project, 23 of service area restaurant buildings will be rebuilt, with significant renovations on the remaining four.

When the redevelopment project is complete, Chick-fil-A will operate in 10 service areas on the Thruway, which all have at least one other food option and a convenience store open seven days a week.

Retail company Applegreen recently entered into a 33-year contract with state’s Thruway Authority and leases space to restaurants under that agreement, according to Authority spokesperson Jennifer Givner. Chick-fil-A will be able to operate within their normal hours under that contract.

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Maysoon Khan is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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New York bill could interfere with Chick-fil-A’s long-standing policy to close Sundays