Should Denver Refuse to Allow Chik-fil-A at the Airport Because of Same Sex Marriage (and Donald Trump)?

Chik-fil-A is apparently food option that Denver airport passengers want most behind Chipotle. And the restaurant chain has a tentative deal to open there. But the Denver City Council may block the deal because of the chain’s views on same sex marriage.

Readers may know that I’m in favor of marriage equality. The fast food restaurant chains views on the matter notwithstanding, now that the Supreme Court has ruled on the issue it’s rather been decided. And in my limited experience with the chain I’ve never been preached to when ordering a chicken sandwich.

Indeed, it’s not even the Chik-fil-A corporation that would be operating the restaurant. It’s Concessions International and Delarosa Restaurant Concepts that will operate the restaurant on Denver’s B concourse (replacing ‘Steak Escapes’). Chik-fil-A gets a 7% royalty.

Denver didn’t block Alaska Airlines from flying there even though they passed out prayer cards on their meal trays (a practice they only stopped three and a half years ago, years after inaugurating Denver service).

But somehow this is all an issue because, Trump.

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.”

I actually think that many airports should refuse to lease to Chik-fil-A but not because of their stance on same sex marriage — instead because of their refusal to open on Sundays.

  • There’s limited retail space on airport concourses. They need to use that space to provide the most effective service possible to passengers, seven days a week. Indeed, Sunday is a heavy travel day. Choosing a restaurant chain that will provide food on Sundays makes sense.

  • Chik-fil-A may find they do enough business without opening on Sundays, perhaps people will go to Chik-fil-A a certain number of times during a week or month and will simply shift their patronage to the days that the restaurant is open. But people patronize airport food establishments on whatever day they’re passing through the airport.

  • Major airports usually charge rent plus a percentage of proceeds and giving up Sunday proceeds means less revenue for the airport authority. They could charge Chik-fil-A a correspondingly higher rent to compensate not generate revenue one day a week, but they’re still left not providing service to passengers in the terminal one day a week.

That would be a viewpoint neutral and perfectly valid reason, in my view, for choosing to lease to restaurants other than Chik-fil-A.

However it concerns me that a government body would refuse to lease space at a government-owned facility to a business because of the political views of its owners.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. Point #1: I don’t really care to get involve in this argument, but why on earth can no one spell the name of this restaurant properly?

    Point #2: If I were involved with this company, I would have figured out years ago how to develop an automat for sunday sales. Their food is extremely simple. We’ve been hearing a lot of theoretical talk of robots replacing restaurant workers (usually in response to a $15 minimum wage). If there is one company that could actually pull it off, it would be CFA.

  2. I’m still waiting for the first hash-brown-chocolates shop to open at DEN (or SEA). As for Chick-fil-A, if anything they should be charged by the FDA for over-sugaring their ice tea! My first experience was one rainy evening at PHL waiting for my much-delayed flight back home. Finding slim pickings in any of the lounges I made my way to the central food court and had heard so much about this brand (political views aside) that figured might as well try it. Bought the illustrated sandwich and ice tea. Sandwich was pretty ordinary, what’s the fuss? Then sipped on the tea and nearly OD’d on the sugar rush! It was undrinkable. Worst ice tea ever! Thank goodness I still had half a bottle of water I refilled in the Admirals Club earlier in the evening. No more Chick-fil-A for me. Hopefully the next Amex Centurion lounge will have opened by the time I have to fly through DEN. As for PHL…another airport to avoid.

  3. I have a choice where I travel and where I choose to do business and even though I don’t hold a strong stance either way on same sex marriage I do hold a strong stance on idiots who intolerate others because of same said intolerance. Its makes one look more moronic than those with far out extreme views on either side. Talking to you Denver.

    I think I’ll just keep my business out of Denver! The fact that there is even discussion from city officials about whether or not to allow chicken to be served because of someone’s belief shows what a joke of a group of officials they must be. Haven’t you got better things to do?

    In regards to it being closed on Sunday and losing revenue, that would only be valid if they didn’t sell more through the 6 days as some of the others do in 7. I’m guessing they would sell a lot more than some of the other selections in a 6 vs 7 day period. However it does remove an option that would otherwise be available for travelers.

  4. I don’t live in Denver so really it’s none of my business. The residents of Denver can deal with their city leaders and their actions as they see fit. I can say that pretty much the only day I really crave Chick-Fil-A is of course on a Sunday. And right now. It’s all Gary’s fault for posting that picture. Gotta go.

  5. @Jeff: “The owners of Chick fila … support traditional values. The majority of Americans are like minded by the way.”

    Assuming that “traditional values” is code for “gay couples shouldn’t be treated equally under the law” rather than “commitment, mutual support, stable family arrangements, and monogamy are good things and should be supported”–your statement is not correct. Not only do a majority of Americans support marriage equality, so do majorities of American Catholics, white mainline Protestants, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Unitarian-Universalists, members of other religions, and religiously unaffiliated people (

    You may still think that public entities should be in the business of renting space to companies with a history of donating corporate money to anti-equality organizations (, but you can’t legitimately justify it by a statement that a majority of Americans also oppose equality. They simply don’t.

  6. Despite being closed on Sunday, Chick-Fil-A is the #3 highest grossing food establishment at MSP so the airport makes more money from them than every other restaurant other than McDonalds & Subway.

    Most Chick-Fil-A enthusiasts have long accepted the fact that they can’t get their fix on that one day.

  7. As to the post, I’m pretty much a live-n-let-live kinda guy so no soapbox to mount on this subject.

    What is interesting to me, however, is that the comment counter shows “54” yet I only count “4”. So are the other 50 spam or haters or ????

  8. Society has gotten so incredibly sensitive and it’s getting a bit ridiculous. Everybody is offended by something these days. Get over it and get on with your lives people, jeez. I live in Denver and have to hear about this crap all the time, like this is the most pressing matter these days. Forget that crime is exploding in downtown Denver, we can’t have a business that doesn’t agree with everyone’s beliefs. That’s clearly more important.

  9. A “chain” cannot have views. An individual, now deceased, expressed views a couple of years ago on an ongoing political controversy. The controversy has since been settled by the Supreme Court, and in terms of the law it really doesn’t matter what views a person expressed a couple of years ago. If they are discriminating in their hiring practices, or with their customers, then that’s an issue. I don’t see anyone saying they are. Let it rest, Denver.

    The Sunday issue depends on whether they sell enough in six days to generate more revenue than another tenant would in seven. Probably they do. There are presumably still dozens of places to eat at DEN on a Sunday.

  10. Never been to a chik fil a restaurant and never will. Forget that the founders were/are religious zealots and hypocrites. What really got me was when they sued a little farmer with a road stand in Vermont and won. Why did they sue? Because he had a sign that said “Eat more Kale”. These idiots sued him on the basis that their potential customers would be confused by their tag line, “Eat more chicken”. Very christian, indeed.

  11. @Rich… That was blacksheep’s point. They sued and bullied some small farmer to try and intimidate him to stop using “Eat More Kale” even though they had no case and ultimately lost. Read up on the history of the lawsuit and you will see that Chick Fil A was ruthless trying to put the guy out of business.

  12. @Mark: Totally agree that they were ruthless bullies. I was only correcting blacksheep’s statement that “… they sued a little farmer with a road stand in Vermont and won.” They sued and lost.

  13. How is this not a first ammendment problem? Can a city council really ban a business based on the employees or owners political or religious views?

  14. This is crazy….The Denver customers voted or were poled and the airport and the council?? says, “To Hell what you say, we will do what we want” Sounds real smart…You are talking about less than 4% of the population controlling whether they should put one in? How Dumb can they get?
    BTW…..Trump is a force that you will be dealing with in the future…..Get Use To It!!

  15. I’d like to see CFA keep their same-sex-marriage views to themselves, though don’t really care if they do or not.

    I’d like to see CFA strongly adhere to being closed on Sundays; and I believe they will.

    I’d like to see CFA continue to not preach or discriminate in hiring or serving practices and let the bullying reside w/ the liberal whack jobs out there (

    And I’d like to see the Denver council soundly defeated / ridiculed for attempting to discriminate against anyone or any entity for simple expression of speech rights which are protected not by some airport authority, local ordinance, or other grandstanding meaningless posturing, but by the constitution of this great country…the greatest in the history of the world in which we are privileged to live in.

    Colorado is teetering on becoming the new CA…not a good transition for those of us that know and love the great state of CO.

  16. @mdtravel- If you don’t like their decision then avoid flying through DEN. The airport is run by the local government and they have the right to vote based on what they feel their constituents want. If the voters don’t like the decision they can vote them out of office. It’s a local decision and it should stay that way. For gods sake it’s a stupid fast food chicken restaurant so don’t get so worked up about it. You would think it’s run by some Michelin star chef. I would rather see airports give local restaurants an opportunity rather than always letting national chains make the money. There are some fantastic local restaurants in Denver that I am sure would love the opportunity to have a location at DEN. Cluck Cluck Cluck.

  17. @mark: personally, the only reason I think this is important is because of the first amendment implications. The fact that a city council thinks is can pick and choose who is allowed to do business in an area based on their religion or political leanings is shocking. I agree that a fast food restaurant is nothing to get worked up about, but a city council who think they have this power is absolutely something people should be talking about.

    What if Salt Lake City closes all of the McDonalds and bans Coca Cola because of their beliefs? .This is an attempt at opening a can of worms that could quickly spiral out of control. Fortunately, I don’t think they will be successful.

  18. @Robert… I assure you this isn’t the first time something like this has been an issue either on the right or on the left. Let the folks in Denver decide through their votes. If they approve they can re-nominate these people if they disapprove they can toss them out of office. Personally I think the legitimate issue is having restaurants serving passengers 7 days a week. If I was on the board that would be my criteria not solely about how much money they pay to be there.

  19. @mark: I agree with you and the article that the Sundays thing is a valid reason to exclude a business from consideration, and if that is what they decide, then I support it. However, it has been made clear that the objection is related to the stance on gay marriage and women’s rights. If this is the reason used, then I will strongly object. This is not a voter issue or a council issue. This is a freedom issue. We have a right to believe what we believe and we need to defend out ability to do so.

    To be clear: I disagree with the restaurant on their beliefs. I support gay marriage and will not be voting for Trump. But I fully support their right to believe whatever they want to believe and to not be shut down by a government or a community that believes differently.

    In your earlier post, you suggested that someone who doesn’t like the decision should not fly through DIA. I counter this by saying: if you don’t like the restaurant’s policy, then don’t eat there. However, you cannot shut them down or run them out of town because you disagree.

  20. This should be strictly a contractual business decision. If any prospective tenant does not agree to the lease terms (re: hours open, eg.) then their application to rent there should be declined.
    Simple. Forget about personal religious beliefs.

  21. So now you want to punish someone for their religious beliefs? How does this play out down the road? – wait, I remember.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *