Chick-fil-A at former Panera Space Divides Emeryville Community

2 mins read

Chick-fil-A has filed permits to occupy the former Panera space on 40th street near Target according to the city’s March Progress report. Panera closed amid the pandemic following the end of their lease.

The popular fast food chain is known for its chicken sandwiches, stellar customer service and long drive-thu lines. They are also known by some for their staunch religious beliefs and supporting organizations that oppose gay marriage.

The company drew the ire of LGBTQ+ groups when it was revealed that they donated substantially to a conservative group that advocated against gay marriage.

Chick-fil-A’s late founder S. Truett Cathy, a devout Southern Baptist, held deep Christian beliefs that influenced the company’s values including closure on Sundays and all Christian holidays.

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Reaction to the news on our social media channels was split between excitement and disdain. Many commenters expressed concern over a company deemed “homophobic” operating in their city.

Others pointed out the potential for “permanent gridlock” at the location and impact it would have on shopping at the nearby Target.

The Santa Barbara Chick-fil-A has had such a negative impact on the area it operates that officials have threatened to declare it a public nuisance.

The former Panera location does not have a drive-thru and it is unlikely Chik-fil-A would pursue adding one.

The reality is that there are few tools at the disposal of local governments to prevent businesses that might not align with their community values from opening other than protest and symbolic gestures.

The below Wall Street Journal video segment notes that the issue crosses first amendment and legal protections.

“There are virtually no legal grounds for [preventing] this,” the reporter concluded after consulting legal, land-use and constitutional experts about a Chicago location.

Chick-fil-A is a private company and not beholden to pressure and advocacy from shareholders.


“We have already approved the Minor Design Review application [on March 8],” noted City of Emeryville Planning & Building Director Charlie Bryant. “A company’s policies are not a factor in land use and design review decisions.”

Bryant added that the only additional approval needed is a building permit which would be provided by the City of Oakland Building Department.

Under the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two cities, Emeryville handles planning approvals for the entire shopping center that straddles the two city’s borders. Building permits are handled by whichever city the building physically resides in (in this case, Oakland).

LGBTQ+ groups “cautiously optimistic” about Chick-fil-A’s philanthropic shift

In 2020, under pressure, their foundation changed their giving policies to focus on education, homelessness and hunger.

According to this 2019 Vox piece by journalist Gaby Del Valle, LGBTQ+ groups are “cautiously optimistic” of the company moving toward inclusivity.

“There’s no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are,” Chick-fil-A’s president and CEO Tim Tassopoulos told the publication Bisnow in a 2019 interview.

The company has also pushed for healthier food options including eliminating trans-fats and antibiotics in its chicken products.

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Rob Arias

is a third generation Californian and East Bay native who lived in Emeryville from 2003 to 2021. Rob founded The E'ville Eye in 2011 after being robbed at gunpoint and lamenting the lack of local news coverage. Rob's "day job" is as a creative professional.


  1. This company also has a long history of opposing LGBT rights and organizations the suppress gays rights. It is not a welcome addition to Emeryville.

    • I’m OK to give Chick fill a chance. If they’re against LGBT they’re not gonna last long that’s for sure but I’ve never had anything from them so I’m willing to give it a try.

    • We must not be ignorant or devoid of others’ views, whether they are political, religious or otherwise. Everyone is entitled to form their own opinions. When we disagree of others’ perspectives, we bring the matter to a fair debate. Exclusivity is, by its very own definition, an act of discrimination. Tolerance and respect are keys to having a civilized society.

      • When their money is literally going to the funding of politics that dictate my personal wellbeing, livelihood, and with whom I love and share my life with, then YES it DOES be one my business to judge! This company is laced with absolute bigotry and discrimination towards the LGBTQ+ community. Fuck them!

    • It is awfully wrong to be unwelcoming a business entity on the ground of their societal stance!


    • No date has been established yet as all the proper permits have not been procured. These chains move pretty quick from my observations so I wouldn’t be shocked to see it open in 6 months. I’ll reach out to their corporate office but no guarantee they’ll reply back.

  2. I’m interested that you say Chick-Fil-A would open up without a drive-thru. I know their Pleasanton and Walnut Creek locations both have them, so that would be a mildly surprising development.

  3. Emeryville is, and should be, an open and inclusive place, and we welcome all and every business regardless of their philosophies!

  4. No thank you! They’ll never see a penny of my money. I’d rather have the Panera back and I’ll buy my chicken sandwiches at Bakesale Betty’s or Summer Kitchen.

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