Felony Franks owners plan to reopen in another location

June 4, 2012 (CHICAGO)

The stand's owners say, despite their closure, they will reopen in another location soon.

Monday, Felony Franks manager Brian Smiley was still cooking while he waited for the job he has had for close to a year comes to an end.

"I don't feel that words could actually describe how I feel," said Smiley.

The 34-year-old is one of dozens of ex-offenders hired by the owner of the controversial restaurant who offered convicted felons a second chance at life through employment.

"I heard that it was closing...so we decided we had to come down and come get some and show some sort of support," said customer George Rivera.

The eatery opened in 2009 and quickly stood out because of its crime-themed menu, including the house specialty, "misdemeanor wieners."

"This is a business that's helping people who are reintegrating into society," said customer Kevin Cole.

Owner Jim Andrews blames the demise of his West Side hot dog stand on the decline of customers scared off by crowds hanging out at a nearby liquor store that recently reopened.

"There's trouble out here," said Andrews. "You walk around our parking lot, you'll find hypodermic needles, you'll find drug bags empty."

A 2 1/2-year-long battle with the city and 2nd Ward Alderman Bob Fioretti over signage for the business didn't help monthly sales, which fell from $20,000 a month to roughly $8,000.

"If every company in this society would hire one ex-offender, look how many it would take off the streets," said Felony Franks co-owner Mary Andrews.

Some ex-offender outreach organizations vow to continue Andrews' mission.

"He was onto something right," said Larry Musgrave of the "10 Men Organization."

And, as the shop closed Monday, many wondered what's next... while Brian Smiley remained hopeful.

"Mr. Andrews is a great guy. I wish weren't going through what we are going through," Smiley said. "I wish there was a way that I could save him because he saved me."

Neither Alderman Fioretti nor the liquor store owners were available for comment.

Despite the closing, things are looking up for the owners of Felony Franks: They have licensed the name to another group in Los Angeles and another one in Indianapolis.

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