Warner Robins Chick-fil-A business booming on ‘appreciation day’

WARNER ROBINS -- The parking lot at the Warner Robins Chick-fil-A on Ga. 96 was packed before 6 a.m. Wednesday. The one on Watson Boulevard was backed up even earlier, said Pat Braski, owner of both locations.

Customers jammed into both fast-food restaurants, plus ones in Macon, for what has been dubbed National Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, which former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee called for in support of company Chief Executive Officer Dan Cathy. Cathy has been criticized for stating he supports “the biblical definition of the family unit.”

“It’s booming,” Braski said of the morning’s business. “The response has been honoring. We’ve always prided ourselves on treating people with respect, honor and dignity, and our customers are returning that.”

Business remained brisk at both locations. Warner Robins police tweeted about traffic on Watson Boulevard because of the rush.

Braski said he expected a sizable increase in sales. He said business has increased over the past five days.

A national debate arose surrounding Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A after a July article in Baptist Press quoted Cathy as saying his company is “guilty as charged” in supporting traditional marriages. The comments drew criticism, while others praised him for upholding Christian beliefs and exercising free speech.

“It seems like we, as Christians, don’t have the freedom of speech,” said Marsha Johnson, who ate breakfast with about 10 members of Second Baptist Church at the Chick-fil-A on Ga. 96 Wednesday morning. “The Christians are supposed to be silent.”

Those who oppose Chick-fil-A’s stance plan to have a countering movement planned for Friday, being called the “National Same-Sex Kiss Day” and “Kiss Mor Chiks.” People are encouraged to share same-sex kisses at Chick-fil-A.

“It’s time for Chick-fil-A and Gov. Huckabee to grow up and recognize that homosexuality is neither a choice nor a disease, any more than being heterosexual is,” Steve Siebold, of Gainesville, wrote in an e-mail. Siebold is the author of “Sex, Politics and Religion: How Delusional Thinking is Destroying America.”

“And if God is so against homosexuals, why is it so rampant in the animal kingdom He created?”

Rick Bartlett, who works in commercial aviation, said the deeper issue is freedom of speech.

“I think it’s important that we be able to express our opinions,” Bartlett said.

Barry Thompson, an X-ray technician, agreed.

“The market should decide,” Thompson said. “If people don’t support it, then don’t eat there.”

Nell Durden of Macon said she will happily give Chick-fil-A her business because the restaurant serves everyone and does not discriminate.

“I support Mr. Cathy’s right to say what he wants to say,” she said. “It’s his personal opinion.”

Bill Atkins, a U.S. Air Force retiree, said he believes in the biblical definition of marriage of one man and one woman and noted he’s been married to his wife for 46 years. He said he also believes in the legal rights of homosexuals but that does not mean he should have to condone homosexuality -- or be silent about his beliefs.

The parking lot at the Chick-fil-A on Zebulon Road in Macon was full just before noon, forcing patrons to park across the street and walk to the restaurant. Although two drive-thru lanes were open, the line at times extended into the street.

The restaurant’s Tom Hill Sr. Boulevard location was packed as well. Owner Davis Clark said Wednesday afternoon that restaurant had been “very busy” so far.

Martha Holloway of Macon brought her family to Chick-fil-A to show their support for Cathy.

“Because we believe in man and wife marriage, we’re Christians and we love Chick-fil-A,” she said.

Ron Linville, a pastor at World Aflame Tabernacle in Macon, said Chick-fil-A has always been one of his favorite restaurants, and Cathy’s statements make eating at the restaurant “all the better.”

“Truett Cathy is a tremendous leader,” he said. “I want (Chick-fil-A) to know we support them.”