Daily photo by Brennen Smith|
Chick-fil-A opened it's doors before the official start of business to the waiting crowd after a heavy rainshower drenched parking-lot campers seeking coupons for free food Wednesday.
Pup tents dot parking lot as
Chick-fil-A prepares for reopening
By Seth Burkett
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Chick-fil-A lovers encamped outside the restaurant in anticipation of its grand reopening were driven indoors by driving rain and high winds Wednesday night.
The rebuilt Chick-fil-A in front of Colonial Mall on Beltline Road Southeast was to open Thursday at 6 a.m. It had shut down after a waffle fryer overheated and set the kitchen ablaze Aug. 1.
The popular chicken restaurant promoted its reopening by offering 52 coupons for free combo meals to each of the first 100 visitors. The promotion is typically held at Chick-fil-A grand openings, but it was a first for Decatur.
Lesley Robinson, 28, of Shelbyville, Tenn., was first in line. She made the trip with her husband, two children and several friends, arriving at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.
"We had tried to go to the one in Smyrna, Tenn., but we got there too late," Robinson said. "We figured we'd ought to show up early for this one. I think we came too early!"
At about 9:40 p.m., 96 people were waiting, and the restaurant expected the 100th customer to arrive before 10 p.m.
Lindsay Ables, a spokeswoman for Chick-fil-A, said she felt inclement weather prevented some from coming out for the event.
At the July opening of Chick-fil-A in Athens, the roster filled up much sooner, Ables said.
Normally those gathered in the parking lot would have been allowed inside only to use the restrooms, but concerns about lightning prompted the restaurant to open its doors early.
The crowd — which appeared to be overwhelmingly made up of young adults — piled into booths to wait out the storm. Some intended to sleep where they sat.
"We'll take care of them," said owner Barry Keith.
Customers sang karaoke while waiting for a chicken nugget party and ice cream party to begin.
"We're glad to be back to serve chicken and to serve the community," Keith said. "It's great to be able to do that in Decatur. It's a great town."
Keith said he managed to rehire about two-thirds of his old employees.
"It's a homecoming of sorts," he said. "A lot of the former employees went to work at Chick-fil-As in Athens, Cullman and Huntsville, and bringing everybody back was just great."
Jeremy Johnson, 18, said he's glad to see Chick-fil-A back in Decatur. Johnson, who drove from Tuscaloosa for the reopening, said he ate at the restaurant practically every day in high school.
"We'd skip school to come out here, and sometimes we'd take some back for the teachers," Johnson said.
Johnson said he and his friends planned to stay outside through the night despite the rain.
"We're country boys. We know how to set up a tent. It's dry," he said.
Tim Call, 20, a student from Union University in Jackson, Tenn., said he goes to two or three openings a year but has never gotten soaked while waiting.
"Since it's just pouring, all the tents are leaking," Call said.
Call said he eats Chick-fil-A often but rarely pays for it. He even shares his coupons with friends, he said.
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