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Police Suspect Arson in Ill. Gay Club Fire

by Jason St. Amand

National News Editor

Tuesday June 5, 2012

Police say that the fire that destroyed a gay club in a Chicago suburb last weekend was caused by arson, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Last Sunday the Velvet Rope Ultra Lounge was engulfed in flames and significantly burned. The fire was reported around 6:25 a.m. after someone smelled smoke. The club's owner, Frank Elliott, 25, said he believed the fire was suspicious after homophobic comments were found written on the wall and the establishment's back door was kicked in, according to the Chicago news station WGN-TV.

Although the bar, located in Oak Park, a prosperous, upper-middle-class suburb 17 miles west of Chicago, was damaged, no one was hurt in the fire.

"I'm beyond shocked," Elliott said. "I have nothing." He said he left the club around 2 a.m. and that the door had been kicked in but a safe he kept in his office was not taken.

"My stomach has been in knots since 6:30 this morning," Elliott told the news station. "My whole life, everything that I've worked for ... my whole life is on the line and I don't know what to think or even begin with."

It seems as though Elliott's assumptions are correct as authorities now say that the fire was intentionally set.

Police declared the building a crime scene just moments after the fire was put out on Sunday morning. The authorities spent seven hours searching the damaged nightclub and took several pictures.

The Oak Park Police Department released a statement and said that there was "probable cause to indicate arson may have been the cause of the fire," Chicago radio station WLS 890AM reported. The state Fire Marshal's office were also been called in to investigate the scene, the statement also pointed out.

The Sun notes that Elliott owned the business since October 2008.

"They said it was arson," said Elliott. "I'm making the assumption it was a hate crime."

Unfortunately, gay clubs aren't just attacked in the U.S. Last month two Iranian-Armenian brothers bombed a gay bar in Armenia. The siblings targeted the establishment because the owner is a lesbian who is active in the local LGBT community and has participated in Turkey's gay pride parade. A week later the bar was attacked again by a group of people who threw dog feces at the establishment.

In San Francisco's fabled Castro District, there were a series of suspicious fires.