At a community meeting in Evanston Thursday evening, residents voiced concerns about the proposal to open a Felony Franks franchise in the city's 2nd Ward.
Owner Jim Andrews says the city of Evanston first suggested he consider opening a location there, and officials have said the business model could help the city's ex-offender population, WBEZ reports.
But, while many Evanston residents say they respect the restaurant's mission, community members continue to raise objections to the campy theme, which some say glorifies crime, and others say is a poor reflection on a neighborhood already struggling with an image problem.
Asa Gezelius told the Chicago Tribune that Evanston's 2nd Ward, where Andrews is considering opening the franchise in the Evanston Plaza shopping center, has a reputation as a high-crime area, something she worries Felony Franks' theme could exacerbate.
Gezelius told the newspaper that the restaurant's image, with menu items like the "Probation Burger" and imagery that includes prison bars and police tape, “feeds into that perception that we are so very much trying to rid ourselves of."
Andrews, however, has refused to alter the iconic eatery's theme or imagery, arguing that the statement it makes is a useful one.
"It lets our society know what we're doing," which includes business training and job stability for ex-felons getting back on their feet, he told the station.
After three years at his flagship West Side location at 229 S. Western Avenue, Andrews' original Felony Franks closed permanently on June 4. Andrews cited exhaustion after years of battling the city and nearby businesses for the right to operate.
While the Evanston franchise's future is uncertain, California foodies won't have to wait much longer for their "misdemeanor wieners." Andrews told CBS Chicago that he expects to sign a franchise agreement to open up to six Felony Franks food trucks on the streets of Los Angeles, staffed by ex-offenders serving the same menu.