Despite the boycotts engendered by its homophobic philanthropy, controversial chicken purveyor Chick-Fil-A apparently has enough capital coming in that it can afford a $2 million Manhattan rent. That is the assumption I am making based on a Crain's report, which says that the fast food chain will open a franchise in the Union Square building where Blue Water Grill lived until January.
Put another way, a single Chick-Fil-A will soon take over the 11,000-square foot space that originally housed a bank. That may seem like too much space for a fast food chain, but Chick-fil-A has previously managed to fill 12,000 square feet in FiDi.
What we do know is that the space in question, 31 Union Square West, has become so untenably expensive that even a billionaire restaurateur-slash-casino-owner could not afford to keep it. Announcing the coming closure in 2017, a spokesperson for Tilman Fertitta, who owned the Grill, said: "Even though this is one of New York's most successful restaurants, it can't be successful with a $2 million plus rent; therefore, we will be relocating within the next year." Blue Water's doors officially closed in January, after more than 20 years operating in that spot.
"The rents get too high and you lose the interesting stores that made a neighborhood unique," retail leasing broker Brad Mendelson told Crain's. "It unfortunately happens in almost every neighborhood in the city."
But Union Square in particular has recently lost a number of its culinary institutions to rent hikes: Around the time Blue Water announced its departure, Jonathan Morr, the owner of another popular restaurant—Republic—terminated his lease early because it had simply become too expensive. And in October, the 28-year Union Square tenant Coffee Shop shuttered for good, having been priced out of a gentrified neighborhood. Chase Bank is rumored to be taking over the location.
Chick-fil-A has overrun NYC, with six other franchises in Manhattan, as well as locations in Queens and Staten Island. According to Crain's, a Garment District Chick-fil-A sells about 3,000 sandwiches daily and makes about $13 million annually.
Unrelatedly, the company itself—the stated corporate purpose of which is to "glorify God" and to "have a positive influence on all who come into contact with Chick-fil-A," i.e., to repurpose fried chicken as an evangelical trojan horse—has poured millions into the pockets of anti-LGBTQ groups. The ties led Mayor Bill de Blasio to voice public opposition to Chick-fil-A patronage, and has prompted widespread boycotts of the chain. Just a random reminder that those are ongoing!