First Chick-fil-A on LI gets town's OK

Customers wait in the drive-thru at a Chick-fil-A Customers wait in the drive-thru at a Chick-fil-A restaurant in Fort Worth, Texas. (Aug. 1, 2010) Photo Credit: Getty Images

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Long Island's first proposed Chick-fil-A restaurant has received a green light from the Brookhaven Town board, despite protests from gay-rights advocates.

The town board on Tuesday unanimously approved a zoning change and special permit for a site on Route 347 in Port Jefferson Station that would accommodate the Atlanta-based fast-food chain and a second, unidentified eatery. The town planning board must approve the project before construction can begin.

Chick-fil-A supporters cheered the vote after arguing during a public hearing that the restaurant would create jobs and beautify a former car dealership now occupied by rental cars.

David Kilmnick, chief executive of the Long Island LGBT Services Network, said he did not find the vote surprising. He has said he would encourage a boycott of the store because the company supports organizations that oppose gay rights.

"I think it's going to be something that many Long Islanders are going to feel shameful about having in their community," Kilmnick said. "No matter how good the chicken is, there's better chicken [at other restaurants] that embraces everybody."

Chick-fil-A has faced fire for comments company president Dan Cathy made opposing same-sex marriage.

At Tuesday's meeting, Scott Thigpen, Chick-fil-A director of restaurant development, distanced the company from Cathy's views.

"Dan did make some comments that are not indicative" of the company's position on gay rights, Thigpen said. "It's unfortunate. That's not who Chick-fil-A is."

During the hearing, Steven Smith of Port Jefferson Station said he was impressed with Chick-fil-A's customer service when he visited the restaurant during family trips.

"I don't support any bigotry," he said. "It doesn't matter what race, creed or color you are. You will be served."

Town board members did not comment on the controversy. They expressed concerns about parking and a proposed drive-through design that Councilman Dan Panico said was "weird" because two lanes merge into one.

Thigpen said the drive-through system has been "very efficient for us."

Councilman Steve Fiore-Rosenfeld, who represents Port Jefferson Station, renewed his complaint that Chick-fil-A had bypassed him and sought support from Councilman Tim Mazzei, who represents a different area.

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