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Protests scuttle plans for Chick-fil-A at Buffalo airport

Air travelers hungry for a chicken sandwich can stop at a Chick-fil-A restaurant inside 28 airports around the United States, but not at Buffalo Niagara International Airport.

Nor will they any time soon. Delaware North Cos. on Friday apparently scuttled plans for the area’s second Chick-fil-A announced not even 24 hours previously by the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority.

Amid protests lodged by Democratic Assemblyman Sean M. Ryan of Buffalo over Chick-fil-A’s alleged discrimination against LGBT people, the worldwide concession company based in Buffalo had not addressed its plans late Friday after Ryan and the NFTA said Delaware North would shelve plans for the popular chain.

NFTA officials had sounded upbeat on Thursday while unveiling plans to upgrade concourse concessions at a board meeting. None of the NFTA commissioners sounded objections. But all that changed late Thursday when Ryan protested. By Friday morning, the assemblyman announced that Delaware North had backed off its Chick-fil-A plans.

“A publicly financed facility like the Buffalo Niagara International Airport is not the appropriate venue for a Chick-fil-A restaurant,” Ryan said. “We hope in the future the NFTA will make every effort to contract with businesses that adhere to anti-discriminatory policies, and we’re confident another vendor who better represents the values of the Western New York community will replace Chick-fil-A as a part of this project in the very near future.”

Cheektowaga has a Chick-fil-A but backlash quickly mounted after plans to bring the eatery to the Buffalo airport were scuttled last week. (Getty Images)

Ryan has emerged as an NFTA champion in the State Legislature after he and Sen. Timothy M. Kennedy spearheaded efforts to include as much as $100 million in capital funding expected in the new state budget slated for passage this weekend.

Late Friday, the NFTA also acknowledged the popular chain would not set up shop at the Cheektowaga airport. Spokeswoman Helen Tederous would say only that the authority is working with Delaware North to identify and offer concession choices at the airport.

Chick-fil-A, which was expected to close the airport restaurant on Sundays as it does throughout the nation, has encountered criticism after some of its officials had publicly opposed same-sex marriage and supported organizations some viewed as discriminatory.

In an emailed statement Friday, Chick-fil-A said some media coverage "drives an inaccurate narrative" about the restaurant chain.

"We do not have a political or social agenda or discriminate against any group," the statement said. "More than 145,000 people from different backgrounds and beliefs represent the Chick-fil-A brand. We embrace all people, regardless of religion, race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity.“

The chain features 33 outlets in 28 U.S. airports, including Albany International. But they have proven a source of controversy, such as in San Antonio,  where the City Council this month considered a new concession contract for its airport but insisted Chick-fil-A be excluded. The Washington Post reported last week that the ban was approved after Councilmember Roberto Trevino said he would not support a company “with a legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior.”

But that move sparked another controversy when Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton began investigating whether the Council had violated laws prohibiting religious discrimination.

”The Constitution’s protection of religious liberty is somehow even better than Chick-fil-A’s chicken,” Paxton wrote. “Unfortunately, I have serious concerns that both are under assault at the San Antonio airport.”

The area’s first Chick-fil-A, which opened on Walden Avenue in Cheektowaga in November, still draws overflow crowds and long lines at its drive-thru.

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