Cops Suspect Arson at Oak Park Gay Club - NBC Chicago

Cops Suspect Arson at Oak Park Gay Club

Derogatory messages were found inside Velvet Rope Lounge, owner says



    Frank Elliott, owner of Velvet Rope Lounge, said derogatory messages were found on one of the walls after the fire inside the nightclub, the only gay bar in Oak Park. Officials are investigation the incident as arson. (Published Monday, June 4, 2012)

    The owner of a gay nightclub destroyed by fire early Sunday in Oak Park calls the incident "suspicious."

    Frank Elliott said derogatory messages were found after the fire on one of the walls inside Velvet Rope Lounge, the only gay bar in Oak Park.

    "There were a lot of sayings or something on the walls, but they were all removed by the detectives," Elliott  said. "I was not able to see what they were."

    Police say they are investigating the incident with the derogatory messages in mind.

    "It is suspicious and it is being investigated as an arson," said Oak Park Police Commander Phyliss Howard.

    The fire was reported at about 6 a.m. Sunday when someone in the area smelled smoke. The fire gutted the lounge, and next-door businesses Geppetto’s Toy Box and the Flat Top Grille also were damaged.

    "My safe was still there in one piece and no one touched anything, so they weren't there for the money," Elliott said. "They were there to make a point."

    Geppetto’s Toy Box was likely going to be closed for several days while crews fixed water and smoke damage.

    "Pure shock when I saw what was there to see -- four engines and firemen everywhere. It was amazing," said store owner Eric Masoncup of what he saw when he arrived after being told of the fire.

    He said he hopes to reopen as soon as possible.

    "It's damage, but we're a lot better off than Velvet Rope and Flat Top Grille," he said.

    No one was inside at the time, and no injuries were reported.

    "They put it out, nobody got hurt, they did a great job," said Oak Park Deputy Fire Chief Ken Klemm.

    Velvet Rope Lounge was seen boarded up Monday morning, and Elliott said he plans to rebuild.