Grayson Fritts, who is still employed by the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, was attempting to hold a meeting with his independent Baptist church, based in Knoxville, at the Cracker Barrel in neighbouring Cleveland.
Citing the Tennessee-owned restaurant’s zero-tolerance policy for “discriminatory treatment or harassment of any sort”, the chain said the meeting would not be allowed.
“At Cracker Barrel, we work hard to foster a culture that is welcoming and inclusive,” a press release on the decision said. “We take pride in serving as a home away from home for all guests and in showing our communities and our country that the hospitality we practice is open to everyone.”
The Tennessean reports that the decision came after members of the community raised their voices on the matter, beginning with a tweet sent on Tuesday.
The tweet was followed by residents calling Cracker Barrel to express their concerns, and an organisation outside the restaurant in protest.
The Tennessee Democratic Party also sent the restaurant about the event a letter on Tuesday, asking the chain to consider a reaction.
The restaurant is widely known around the American south, and is a common place for church-goers to have lunch or dinner after services and events. Online, fans of the restaurant are praising what many saw as an unexpected ending to the Tennessee saga.
“1991: Cracker Barrel fires an employee because she was a lesbian and it went against their ‘family values.’ 2019: CB bans anti-gay pastor Grayson Fritts’ event due to a zero-tolerance policy for ‘discriminatory treatment or harassment of any sort,’” wrote one Twitter user, citing a case that made national news nearly 30 years ago. “The boycotts work, people.”