Something to cluck about

Controversial chicken chain hatches plans for first downtown Austin location

Controversial chicken chain hatches plans for downtown Austin store

Chick fil A exterior
Chick-fil-A is swooping into downtown Austin. Photo courtesy of Chick-fil-A

It appears that Chick-fil-A, the popular (and controversial) chain of chicken restaurants, is preparing to open its first location in downtown Austin.

Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A has filed paperwork with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation for a $700,000 renovation project at 600 Congress Ave. in a space formerly occupied by Greek restaurant Athenian Bar & Grill. The project is slated to start this October and be completed next March.

Des Plaines, Illinois-based Chipman Design Architecture is handling design work for renovation of the 4,543-square-foot space.

Representatives of Chick-fil-A and Austin-based Endeavor Real Estate Group, the landlord of the 600 Congress office tower, couldn’t be reached for comment.

Chick-fil-A has 28 restaurants in the Austin metro area, including its Southpark Meadows location, which is closed for remodeling. A new Chick-fil-A restaurant is on tap for 7710 N. FM 620, in the Four Points area of Far Northwest Austin.

Chick-fil-A has recently ruffled some feathers in Texas.

Last year, the San Antonio City Council prohibited Chick-fil-A from adding a location at San Antonio International Airport due to the company’s “legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior.” Critics have fried Chick-fil-A over past donations by the company’s charitable foundation to faith-based groups that oppose pro-LGBTQ+ issues, including same-sex marriage. 

The City of San Antonio is being sued over the Chick-fil-A ban following enactment in 2019 of a state law nicknamed the “Save Chick-fil-A bill.”

Supporters of the law describe it as a freedom-of-religion measure that prevents government bodies from punishing people or businesses based on their support of religious organizations. Opponents complain that the law enables state-sanctioned discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community.

Governor Greg Abbott signed the bill into law in June 2019. A month later, he held a ceremonial bill-signing event at his Capitol office where he was surrounded by Chick-fil-A food and beverages.

“Discrimination is not tolerated in Texas. No business should be discriminated against simply because its owners [donate] to a church or the Salvation Army or any other religious organization,” Abbott said at the July 2019 ceremony. “No business should lose a government contract because of their religious beliefs. The ‘Save Chick-fil-A’ legislation that I’m about to sign is a victory for religious liberty in Texas.” 

Shortly before Abbott signed the Save Chick-fil-A bill in June 2019, state Rep. Celia Israel, an Austin Democrat who’s openly lesbian, said the legislation was “cloaked in religious freedom. But the genesis, the nexus of this bill, is in hatred.”

Chick-fil-A has said that beginning in 2020, its charitable foundation will focus more on donating to organizations that promote initiatives aimed at fighting hunger and homelessness, and at improving education. In November 2019, Chick-fil-A declared it would stop contributing to two organizations that LGBTQ+ advocates slam as being discriminatory — the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. However, the fast-food chain hasn’t ruled out future donations to either of those nonprofits.