Former Owner Faces Arson Charge for Velvet Rope Fire

Former Oak Park restaurant Frank Elliot is charged with arson and insurance fraud after a June 2012 fire at the Velvet Rope Ultra Lounge at 728 Lake St.

Frank Elliot, 26, is charged with arson and insurance fraud. Credit: Courtesy of the Village of Oak Park.
Frank Elliot, 26, is charged with arson and insurance fraud. Credit: Courtesy of the Village of Oak Park.

The former owner of an Oak Park bar and restaurant that was destroyed by a fire last year has been charged with arson and insurance fraud, according to a news release from the Village of Oak Park

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. 

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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.

The former Velvet Rope space has been rented by Spiro Papageorge, who formerly owned Papaspiros and hopes to open a similar Greek restaurant, according to the Wednesday Journal

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.

Margaret Roth November 02, 2013 at 02:36 PM
I am jacks COMPLETE lack of surprise.... And Geppettos was closed for weeks, even I think a month or two, not a few days!!!! (trust me, I have toy crazed small children)
Rotty Angel November 03, 2013 at 01:29 AM
I'm sure the cops knew from the beginning (as everyone else did) that this was a thinly disguised crappy attempt as arson, but they needed an airtight case before making an arrest. Glad they finally made an arrest. Staging this as a hate crime is despicable.
Lynette Simmons Hoag November 04, 2013 at 10:57 AM
My blog "The Velvet Tight Rope" actually discussed this as a possible outcome. Still, very sad.
Sharon Mullins November 04, 2013 at 02:21 PM
Given the wholesome nature of his establishment this comes as a total shock.
Karen Madsen November 04, 2013 at 10:20 PM
I'm glad the police were so tenacious in their investigation. This outcome has been surmised publicly and has been a long time coming. Good Work.


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