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Chick-fil-A opens protest-free in Santa Rosa

  • Santa Rosa Mayor Scott Bartley chows down on a chicken sandwich during an opening ceremony at Chick-fil-A in Santa Rosa on Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013. (BETH SCHLANKER/ PD)

A controversial Chick-fil-A restaurant opened in Santa Rosa on Thursday without promised protests from the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.

Gary Carnivele, editor of gaysonoma.com, had vowed to organize a boycott against the fast-food chain after the company's president, Dan Cathy, said he opposed same-sex marriage and believed in “the biblical definition of the family unit.”

Carnivele said there would likely be demonstrations against the Mendocino Avenue restaurant down the road, but not on opening day because members feared for their safety.

Santa Rosa Chick-fil-A Opening

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“There are still a lot of homophobic people around, and there are people who are probably just going to go to Chick-fil-A to make a point of saying that they not only support the restaurant, but they're not in favor of equal marriage rights for same-sex couples,” Carnivele said.

Jason Sutton, who owns the Santa Rosa franchise, said the community response to the new restaurant so far has been great.

“I believe in treating everyone the same. I believe in equality,” said Sutton, a retired U.S. Army officer who just moved to Sonoma County with his family from Kansas City. “I just want anyone who feels like Chick-fil-A has a stance like that to give us a chance.”

As noon approached, the parking lot filled with cars going through the drive-through as a team of Chick-fil-A employees directed traffic. Outdoor tables quickly filled with happy diners, and Sutton greeted guests with handshakes. Families and young people alike chomped on the waffle fries and spicy sandwiches.

“We're so happy that a Chick-fil-A opened in Santa Rosa. I've been waiting for it to open,” said David Koven, 25, an ophthalmology technician who lives in Santa Rosa. “We don't always agree with their politics, but they make great chicken sandwiches.”

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