Felony Franks Sues City To Keep Sign, Escalating Feud With Alderman

05/06/2011 03:48 pm ET | Updated Jul 06, 2011

Felony Franks, a hot dog stand on the Near West Side, has been in a tussle with its alderman for years. Now, it's taking the dispute somewhere it ought to feel all too comfortable: before a judge.

On one side is Jim Andrews, the stand's owner. His restaurant operates around a jailhouse gimmick, with items like "misdemeanor wieners" coming through bulletproof glass windows for customers passing by. But the gimmick is backed by a strong promise: Andrews only employs ex-cons at Felony Franks. He has also hired former offenders at his Andrews Paper Company for years.

Andrews just wants to hang a sign in front of his restaurant.

Opposing him, among others, is Alderman Bob Fioretti, who represents the ward.

"Felony Franks? The home of the misdemeanor wiener? Food so good it's criminal? You are actually in a sense elevating the life of crime here in our city and we cannot tolerate that," he said in a UPI story on the restaurant two years ago.

Felony Franks has a mural painted on its wall, but the signpost over the building hangs empty, thanks to Fioretti's refusal to allow one.

For years, Andrews has been fighting his alderman to allow a sign for his restaurant. This week, despite advice from the Law Department that it could be violating First Amendment rights, the City Council's Committee on Transportation and the Public Way voted in a split decision not to allow a permit for the sign, the Chicago Tribune reported.

And the Law Department's advice proved prescient: the ABA Journal reports that Felony Franks is now suing the city, for the rights to the sign and almost $300,000 in lost business.

“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 in the ABA story. “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?”

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