The owner of Felony Franks, a near West Side hot dog stand denied a sign permit for more than two years, filed a federal lawsuit last night accusing the city of denying his free-speech rights.
The suit, filed by Jim Andrews, asks a judge to order the city to allow him to hang the sign. It also seeks $293,000 in damages for lost business.
“The business could collapse due to financial losses,” the suit states. “The ex-offenders given a second chance (as in employed by Felony Franks) will become unemployed should the business fold.”
Andrews first filed an application for the sign about two years ago, but Ald. Robert Fioretti, 2nd, refused to sign off on the request and no action was taken by the city. Andrews recently forced a City Council committee hearing on the issue, but a tie vote left the matter in limbo.
Fioretti said he has no problem with Andrews’ practice of hiring ex-convicts to work at the hot dog stand, which serves the “misdemeanor wiener” and boasts of “food so good it’s criminal,” but says the name is inappropriate for a neighborhood trying to change its image. He said he worries that the name will make criminality look positive to high school students.
The Law Department had advised aldermen that not allowing the sign could invite a first amendment claim. The suit also alleges the city has denied Andrews due process rights, because it has not acted on his request for a permit, and engaged in retaliation by looking for code violations that would allow it to deny the sign.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun