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Felony Franks Bars The Doors

By Anthony Todd in Food on Jun 1, 2012 1:30PM

2011_5_9_felony_franks.jpg Felony Franks, the West Side hot dog stand that has been beset with controversy and regulatory issues since its opening in 2009, has finally given up the ghost. When the restaurant opened in 2009, owner Jim Andrews hoped to turn it into a chain with 40 Chicago locations. Unfortunately, not even the first location could manage to stay open—the Chicago Journal reported yesterday that the restaurant closed on Wednesday.

The "controversy" over Felony Franks has always struck us as a bit ridiculous. The name was inspired by the fact that Andrews employed ex-convicts at the stand. Now, given the often-ridiculous restaurant industry, one might imagine that this was a stupid gimmick; think of the catchy name, then make former prisoners wear striped clothes and sell hotdogs. One would be wrong. Andrews was attempting to change his little corner of the world by giving ex-convicts an opportunity to find gainful employment.

The controversy started when neighborhood residents objected to the name as a glorification of crime. Things got worse: 2nd Ward Ald. Bob Fioretti did everything he could over the years to stop Felony Franks from getting a sign upon which to display its oh-so-offensive name. Even though the hot dog stand won a judgement in federal court, Andrews was worn down by the long fight. That, plus issues with a liquor store next door, caused Andrews to finally give up.

Andrews insists that the brand is not dead, and he hopes to open in another location. We almost teared up when we read about his last meeting with the employees he gave a second chance.

"The hardest part for Andrews is letting his employees go. 'They almost brought me to tears,' Andrews said. 'They said, 'We are here to the end with you, Jimmy, and we appreciate what you did for us.'"