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Alderman, Neighbors Have Beef With New Hot Dog Stand

By Kalyn Belsha in News on Apr 25, 2009 8:00PM

Photo by Palito de Pan
Some Chicagoans are uneasy about a hot dog stand that will be opening at the corner of Jackson and Western mid-next month. But it's not because the eatery will employ ex-offenders. It's the name that has some people riled up: Felony Franks.

The concept was developed three years ago by Jim Andrews, who started hiring ex-offenders at his West Loop paper company and was pleased with the work they did. He thought Felony Franks would be a catchy name for a hot dog establishment and started pursuing locations on the North and South Side, before settling on the current West Side location for the business.

Residents who live near the stand say they applaud Andrews for hiring ex-offenders and bringing business to the area, but say they worry the name could offend members of the community. Second Ward Alderman Bob Fioretti also voiced his concerns that the name was in bad taste, pointing out the city's West Side has major crime problems and that the name could glorify crime.

But Andrews, who hopes to make Felony Franks a chain with 40 locations throughout Chicago, says the name is not meant to be offensive. Rather, he said, he hopes the name will help to erase some of the stigma associated with being a former convict.

“I’m trying to take a negative and turn it into a positive,” Andrews told WBBM.

The sign outside the new eatery displays a hot dog dressed in stripes, behind bars, with a ball and chain attached to it. Slogans "Food so good it's criminal" and "Home of the Misdemeanor Weiner" are scrawled on the exterior wall and the menu includes crime-themed items such as the "burglar beef" and "chain gang chili dog."

Andrews estimates five to seven ex-offenders will staff the restaurant, and plans to allocate half of the profits to employees and the other half to Rescue Foundation, his nonprofit to help ex-offenders. Andrews and his wife are in the process of gathering petitions from neighbors near the eatery to see if they find the name offensive. [Chicago Journal via Gapers Block, Daily Herald, WBBM]