Frank Elliot, 26, who operated the Velvet Rope Ultra Lounge, 728 Lake St.— and told local media he believed his establishment was targeted because it catered to a gay clientele—was arrested early Friday night at the Bonsai Bar, the business he operates at 3503 N. Halstead St., in Chicago, according to the release.
Firefighters responding to a report of smoke at Velvet Rope about 6:30 a.m., June 3, 2012 and extinguished the fire within minutes, but not before the interior of the building had sustained significant damage. Businesses on both sides of the restaurant, Gepetto's Toy Box and Flat Top Grill, also had water and smoke damage and were closed for some time for cleanup. No injuries were reported.
Gepetto's Toy Box owner Brandy Masoncup said her store was closed for nearly five weeks.
Oak Park Police Chief Rick C. Tanksley lauded the "tenacity and focus" of investigators who worked closely with the Office of Cook County State’s Attorney to actively pursue the case for more than a year.
“This incident was a troubling one for our community, which prides itself on being open and welcoming to all. A hate crime just didn’t make sense,” he said.
Elliot was transported to Cook County Criminal Court, where he is awaiting a bond hearing scheduled for sometime today. He is charged with two counts of arson and one count of insurance fraud.
If convicted, Elliot could face up to seven years in prison for each count of arson and 15 years for insurance fraud, in addition to fines of $25,000 or more.