Sandwiches and strippers: A former Subway franchisee cooks up disaster

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3133/2801070469_c5e8f9a15d_m.jpgPoor Subway. The sandwich chain was already smarting from bad press for its mistreatment of Leon Batie, a franchise owner stationed in Afghanistan. Now it finds itself fighting another battle -- a strip club owner has used Subway-branded wrappers and menus in his combination sandwich shop and "all-nude private club."

When Anthony "Cousin Vinny" Agnello opened a Subway franchise in a Bronx, N.Y., neighborhood last year, he hoped it would be his "golden parachute," a reliable, profitable business that would help him branch out from the strip club business that had previously been his bread and butter. However, the larger-than-life Agnello quickly found himself at loggerheads with the popular sandwich company.
To begin with, his decorating scheme departed from the company's traditional subway map wallpaper: Agnello preferred to accent the place with pictures of his favorite mobsters. Adding insult to injury, Agnello -- who called himself "The King of Bling" -- was often out of uniform. Subway claims that it evicted Agnello from his franchise for failing to pay rent. He claims that this isn't true. What is beyond dispute is that, after a short while, Agnello and Subway parted company. On his way out, the would-be deli entrepreneur took a lot of Subway-branded supplies.

Not long afterward, Agnello opened his own restaurant, "Cousin Vinny's Way," which he described as "an extraordinary 'Subway style submarine sandwich shop,'" noting that, "In fact this was a Subway franchise up until May 2008." Added to this, he continued to use the Subway menus, wrappers, and bags that he had taken from his earlier venture.

All this might have gone unnoticed except that at night, "Cousin Vinny's Way" became "Cousin Vinny's Little Secret," which Agnello described as a "wildly exotic and explicit, all nude private club," featuring "some of the most beautiful young ladies who have ever chosen to take their clothes off in public." Finally, Agnello noted that prospective customers who are interested in visiting need only "call information for the number to the Subway restaurant on East Tremont Avenue in the Bronx."

Needless to say, this unique combination of subs and grinders caught the attention of Subway corporate, which took Agnello to court. The magistrate ruled against him, levying fees and damages totaling $97,900. Following numerous other mishaps, including a break-in, it seems likely that this will be the end of Cousin Vinny's sandwich career. He could not be reached for this article.

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