retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Chicago Tribune reports that "a Chicago alderman wants to kill Chick-fil-A's plans to build a restaurant in his increasingly trendy Northwest Side ward because the fast-food chain's top executive vocally opposes gay marriage.

"If you are discriminating against a segment of the community, I don't want you in the 1st Ward," says Ald. Proco "Joe" Moreno.

"Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said, when asked about the issue. "They disrespect our fellow neighbors and residents. This would be a bad investment, since it would be empty."

Meanwhile, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino told the Boston Herald he would block the chain from opening in his city, saying in a letter to Dan Cathy, president of Chick-fil-A, that the city is "full of pride for our support of same-sex marriage and our work to expand freedom to all people. We are proud that our state and our city have led the way for the country on equal marriage rights...There is no place for discrimination on Boston's Freedom Trail and no place for your company alongside it."

As previously reported here on MNB, Cathy told the Baptist Press in an interview that the company is "guilty as charged" for being anti gay marriage, adding that "we are very much supportive of the family -- the biblical definition of the family unit.… We are a family owned business, a family led business, and we are married to our first wives."
KC's View:
At this moment, I feel sort of like Michael Corleone in The Godfather, Part Three. Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in...

I've decided to do this story not because I want to reignite the discussion that we were having last week, but because a lot of MNB readers send me links to the stories about Chicago and Boston.

This is, in fact, the only reason that I brought up the story to begin with. Dan Cathy took a position, which is his right. He put his privately held company right in the middle of a contentious cultural debate, and now he's going to have to deal with the consequences. I gather they've already lost a marketing deal with the Muppets, with the Jim Henson Company deciding to sever their relationship because of the comments. (I did sort have to smile of the poster that showed Kermit the Frog and a caption that said, "He'll eat flies, but he won't Chick-fil-A.")

I suspect Dan Cathy is okay with all this. He's comfortable with his position, he believes in what he says, and he could give a damn if he's lambasted by the media, boycotted by a segment of the population, and spurned by a bunch of sock puppets. And he probably figures that whatever business he loses from one demographic, he'll pick up from another.

I've made my position clear on this issue, but I do have to say that I am uncomfortable with governments denying zoning and building permits because of the political/cultural beliefs of a private citizen and corporation. If he obeys the law, pays his taxes and follows all the rules, then he ought to be able to open fast food outlets in places where they are allowed.

If a Chicago alderman and the mayor of Chicago don't want to eat there, that's their right. If they want to organize or participate in a boycott, that's also their right. But blocking a perfectly legal business from operating because of an owner's political/cultural beliefs ... well, that's one step farther than I think they should go.