Belfast Telegraph

Ashers Bakery growth strong despite legal case furore

By Ryan McAleer

The northern Ireland bakery chain at the centre of a landmark legal battle sparked by its refusal to bake a cake promoting same-sex marriage has continued to grow.

Accounts for the Ashers Baking Company Ltd revealed the business expanded in the year to March 31 2018, despite the high-profile controversy.

The Christian owners of the bakery, Colin and Karen McArthur, won their appeal in the so-called 'gay cake' discrimination case at the UK's highest court in October.

Ashers closed its bakery on Belfast's Royal Avenue in the same month, but the company said the decision not to renew the lease was based on a lack of footfall.

The branch was located just yards from Primark's flagship Bank Buildings store, which was devastated by fire at the end of August.

The cordon thrown up around the site resulted in a slump in footfall in certain parts of Belfast city centre.

Speaking at the time, general manager Daniel McArthur said the decision had come "down to the figures", stating the rest of company was trading well. "Belfast city centre isn't busy enough," he said.

A financial report into the company's accounts, which was made public yesterday, appeared to support the claim. It showed that for the 12 months to the end of March 2018, Ashers Baking Company Ltd's profit and loss account grew to £2.2m over the period, up from £2m last year.

Staff also increased from 70 to 74. However, the reporting period pre-dates the closure of the Royal Avenue branch.

Mr McArthur said in October that the closure of the Royal Avenue store would not result in any job losses. Ashers continues to operate eight other retail sites in the east Antrim and Belfast area.

The financial statement comes two months from Colin and Karen McArthur's successful appeal to the UK's Supreme Court, where five justices unanimously found in their favour.

The long-running legal saga began in 2014 when customer Gareth Lee ordered a cake with the message "Support Gay Marriage".

Although initially accepted by the Belfast city centre store, Mr Lee was later contacted by Ashers' head office to inform him his order would not be fulfilled.

President of the Supreme Court Lady Hale found that Mr Lee's sexual orientation was not the reason why the order was cancelled.

Belfast Telegraph

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