Dogged by Controversy

Dogged by Controversy

You'd think an entrepreneur who opened a business in a depressed neighborhood and hires ex-cons to give them a second chance to make an honest living would be lauded. Turns out that depends on the sense of humor of the local pol.

James Andrews recently opened Felony Franks in Chicago's rough Oak Park neighborhood, and Second Ward Alderman Robert Fioretti wasn't amused. Fioretti objected to the business name, claiming it glorifies lawlessness. Nor do the restaurant's motto, “Food So Good, It's Criminal,” or its various menu item names (Misdemeanor Wiener, Chain Gang Chili, etc.) thrill him.

Our advice? Stop being such a wiener, Mr. Fioretti.

It seems to Just Desserts that a restaurateur with the edgy imagination to have his ex-con employees ask customers to “plead your case” when asking for the order is just the kind who can turn a depressed storefront into a successful business. And if the employees don't mind the self-referential wit, why should anyone else? In the restaurant game, differentiation is critical.

On the other hand, maybe the alderman is on to something. With all the buzz his opposition has generated, Felony Franks has been written up in everything from the Chicago Catholic News to the Wall Street Journal.

And that level of free publicity for a small local business — or a local politician — is positively criminal…