Felony Franks owner sues city, Fioretti

Owner says he just wants a sign — and now $293,000

05/04/2011 7:01 PM

By Ben Meyerson

8 Comments - Add Your Comment

Felony Franks has its logo painted on the side of its building, but its sign hangs empty. STAFF/File 2009

The owner of Felony Franks, the Near West Side fast food joint that hires ex-inmates, is suing the city for holding up his request for a sign.

Jim Andrews, Felony Franks’ owner, has been saying for months that Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) and the city of Chicago have unreasonably denied him his free speech by not giving him permission to hang a sign over the street outside his shop at Western Avenue and Jackson Boulevard.

Tuesday night, he took action on those claims, filing a suit in federal court seeking to require Fioretti and the city to let him have his sign — and give him $293,000 in damages, as well.

“I should be entitled to a sign, I should be entitled to a right of way permit, I should be entitled to my rights,” Andrews said Wednesday. “I spent a lot of money over there on a piece of property I don’t own, and then to be held back on something as simple as a sign? I think I’m being screwed.”

Andrews said he thinks that with a sign, his business would dramatically increase. Currently, the building has an empty sign frame that hangs over the street. He’s lost $280,000 to $290,000 since opening the restaurant, he said.

“We could have done a lot more business if we had a sign,” Andrews said. “If you were out driving by, you’d think the place was closed during the day. We do more business at night when we have the perimeter lights on.”

In February, Andrews said he didn’t think he’d have enough money to stay open past mid-March. He’s backed off that statement now, saying he’s tapped into other financial resources.

For his part, Fioretti said he hasn’t seen the suit yet, but it’ll be up to the courts to decide what’s best. He said there’s an ordinance pending in city council to nix all signs hanging over the street on Western as part of a streetscape project that’s currently underway.

“It’s just how we’re going to do our aesthetic,” Fioretti said. “This just doesn’t fit in.”

Fioretti has made no secret in the past of his distaste for the shop, saying its name is inappropriate and makes light of both crime and ex-convicts. Community activists have decried the restaurant’s concept as well.

Andrews, though, maintains his concept — which features a cartoon hot dog in jailhouse garb — is inoffensive.

“That is not portraying any race, creed or color. It’s portraying a red hot dog wearing a ball and chain,” Andrews said. “The community needs to get over it, and come in and have some food.”

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By Really? from Near West
Posted: 05/24/2011 9:49 AM

Jen--does he call his business "Felony Flatcakes"? Does he poke light about being a felone in front of kids everyday (kids who know that commiting a felony will get them some sort of 'street cred')? Is he? If he is, then you can compare him to Felony Franks, if he is not, then it's like comparing rotten apples to apple pie.

By Jen from Little Italy
Posted: 05/23/2011 2:45 PM

I don't pretend to know anything about Jim Andrews or Felony Franks. But NPR "Kitchen Sisters" talk about some guy in New Orleans who sells pralines like he use to make on the sly in Angola State Pen. I liked the guy's interview for a went online and bought $20 worth. I guess the difference is that Andrew's hotdog recipe didn't come out of the pen.

Posted: 05/09/2011 9:01 PM

So the owner of Felony Franks hires ex convicts and keeps them off the street. In doing so, he has made them productive mebmers of society. It looks as though the city and the alderman would rather have ex cons on the street robbing people. City of Chicago and Fioretti, please get your head out of your butt!

By Really? from United Center
Posted: 05/09/2011 2:57 PM

Charles, have you been there? Would you really call that positive loitering. Even the liquer store has issue with the loitering in front of Felony Franks.

By Charles from Chicago
Posted: 05/08/2011 11:23 AM

In this bad economic times, why in the world would Alderman Fioretti want to eliminate all signs on Western?!!! Shouldn't he be doing his utmost to encourage business not discourage business? This proposal to get rid of all signs on Western is just an end-run around the Felony Franks sign issue. Positive loitering is the the best way to get rid of gangs. Andrews is doing a great thing that should be supported.

By Stephen Reginald from South Loop
Posted: 05/08/2011 8:06 AM

I really don't understand how a city like Chicago that celebrates it's famous criminals, like Al Capone, in every gift shop in the city is upset by a fast-food joint named Felony Franks. Who else in the neighborhood is hiring felons? For goodness sake, the "Untouchables" tour bus drives by me on my walk to church every Sunday and I should be offended by Felony Franks? I don't get it.

By Attorney Christopher C. Cooper from Lawyer for Felony Franks who wrote the lawsuit
Posted: 05/05/2011 7:48 PM

I am Felony Frank's Lawyer. I wrote and filed the lawsuit. I am disappointed that the Chicago Journal story is not an accurate representation of what my client and I told the reporter. Attorney Christopher C. Cooper cooperlaw3234@gmail.com

By Resident from West Haven
Posted: 05/05/2011 6:10 PM

A sign won\'t make up for lousy food, disrespect to a community and creating a hang out and haven for types that make consumers uncomfortable. Franks lost money because it is not a profitable business. Andrews made a bad business decision and he has only himself to blame. His hot dog behind bars may have been a cute gimmick to Andrews but it didn't catch on in a community where one in five Black males have been behind bars. He is not the first business to fail at that site. He won't be the last