Felony Franks owner sues city, Fioretti
Owner says he just wants a sign — and now $293,000
05/04/2011 7:01 PM
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.”