- The Washington Times - Monday, September 14, 2020

Chick-fil-A on Monday walked away from a deal to open a restaurant in San Antonio International Airport, despite the city relenting in its yearlong fight to keep out the conservative-owned fast-food chain.

“While we are not pursuing a location in the San Antonio airport at this time, we are grateful for the opportunity to serve San Antonians in our 32 existing restaurants,” Chick-fil-A said in a statement.

The company took a pass after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced a deal between the city and the Federal Aviation Administration to grant Chick-fil-A an airport lease.

The San Antonio City Council made headlines last year when it voted to deny Chick-fil-A an airport license because the company, whose late founder was a devout Christian, had made charitable donations to organizations that the council deemed anti-LGBTQ.

The deal brokered by Mr. Paxton, a Republican, stemmed from Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao’s request last year for an investigation of whether San Antonio violated the law against religious discrimination in rejecting Chick-fil-A.

Mr. Paxton heralded the deal as a triumph before the chicken restaurant passed.

“This is a win for religious liberty in Texas and I strongly commend the FAA and the city of San Antonio for reaching this resolution,” Mr. Paxton said. “To exclude a respected vendor based on religious beliefs is the opposite of tolerance and is inconsistent with the Constitution, Texas law and Texas values.”

The FAA said in Sept. 10 letter that San Antonio had agreed to enter talks for an “informal resolution” to the problem rather than bog down in costly litigation. According to the FAA, the city agreed to offer Chick-fil-A a lease for space in the airport’s terminal A with terms “reasonable and consistent with customary business practices.”

Still, Mr. Paxton’s take did not appear to jibe with the city’s version of events.

When asked about Mr. Paxton’s version, the city told San Antonio television station KSAT that no deal was on the table.

“The FAA has not ordered the City of San Antonio to have Chick-fil-A at its airport,” a statement from City Hall read. “The City maintains that at no point did it discriminate against Chick-fil-A. Any placement of Chick-fil-A at the San Antonio Airport is ultimately contingent on Chick-fil-A’s continued interest and approval by the City Council.

“San Antonio’s leaders then accused Mr. Paxton of making a “false declaration of victory” and said it “significantly jeopardizes the potential for a mutually beneficial and amicable resolution.”

In response, Mr. Paxton said the FAA letter “speaks for itself.”

• James Varney can be reached at jvarney@washingtontimes.com.

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