Fast-Food Fight

McDonald's battles to open a restaurant in the cultural heart of Florence, Italy

At the Piazza del Duomo (pee-AT-suh del DWOH-moh) in Florence, Italy, visitors can marvel at a 721-year-old cathedral and see masterpieces by Renaissance artists like Michelangelo. But tourists won’t find a McDonald’s in the historical square. City officials recently turned down a proposal to open a McDonald’s at the site. Executives at the company are now fighting back by suing the city.

The new McDonald’s would have been located directly across from the Piazza’s famed Santa Maria del Fiore (fee-oh-rayh) cathedral. The building is one of many examples of Renaissance architecture in the square. City officials say they rejected McDonald’s restaurant application because of city regulations that aim to preserve the heritage of this cultural center.

Representatives from McDonald’s argue that the proposal included design changes to meet the city’s guidelines. Waiters at the restaurant would have served customers at tables instead of offering food to go. Officials at the American chain also promised to obtain 80 percent of the product ingredients locally. They believe the city is discriminating against the company, so they filed a lawsuit for $19.8 million to compensate for the loss of future earnings.

“We don’t have any prejudice [against McDonald’s],” Florence’s mayor responded in a statement. He noted that the chain already has nine McDonald’s in other parts of the city—a fact that prompted more than 24,000 Florence residents to sign a petition against the new McDonald’s. Some protesters also organized a march through the city’s center. They argue that tourist-friendly businesses like McDonald’s alter the character of cultural-heritage sites.

What do you think? Do fast-food restaurants detract from historical sites?

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