Plans by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority to upgrade the restaurants at the Brookdale South service area on the Garden State Parkway have been met with objections from the mayor of Bloomfield and a township councilman.

The renovation at what is now known as the Connie Chung service area will replace a McDonald's with a Chick-fil-A, Burger King, Starbucks, and a convenience store. Demolition of the existing building begins in the spring.

Mayor Michael Venezia and Councilman Rich Rockwell, who is gay, want the Turnpike Authority to reconsider the Chik-Fil-A because of what they say is the company’s opposition to same-sex marriage and support of anti-LGBTQ legislators and organizations.

“This announcement by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority to allow Chick-fil-A to open a restaurant at a Bloomfield rest stop is incredibly disappointing. Bloomfield is a diverse community accepting of all races, religions and sexual orientations, which is the antithesis of what this chain stands for" Venezia said in a joint statement with Rockwell.

Rockwell accused the chain of imposing the religious beliefs of its ownership on employees, customers and operators.

"Chick-fil-A imposes its religion on employees, customers and operators and as a publicly funded entity, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority should not allow this type of business on the Parkway," Rockwell said.

The Turnpike Authority and Chik-fil-A on Tuesday morning did not respond to New Jersey 101.5's request for more information.

Chik-fil-A on Route 1 in Lawrence Township
Chik-fil-A on Route 1 in Lawrence Township (Chik-fil-A)
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Chik-fil-A's strong religious beliefs

Chick-fil-A, founded in 1967 by the late S. Truett Cathy, holds strong Christian-based beliefs. It does not open its 2,774 locations on Sunday in order to allow employees time with their family or to attend religious services.

In 2011, Cathy and his wife refused to allow same-sex couples to attend their marriage retreats. It was also reported that they donated millions to Christian groups that opposed same-sex marriage, which led the Jim Henson Company to sever its ties with Chick-fil-A and a call for boycotts.

The company in 2012 said it was a restaurant and did not want to debate the issue as a company.

Controversy continued in 2019 following criticism by LGBTQ advocates of the company's donations to the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, according to a New York Times report.

The company said it had already ended its financial support in 2018 and shifted its support to organizations that help hunger, homelessness and education.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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