OAK PARK, Ill.—Some of the evidence at the scene of a weekend fire that destroyed an Oak Park gay bar suggests it may have been a hate crime, but Oak Park arson detectives are not confirming that. They are only saying the fire at the Velvet Rope Ultra Lounge was suspicious.
Many residents say they find the news disturbing and that this does not sound like the Oak Park they know.
"I just broke down in tears and lost it. It finally hit me," Elliott told WGN this morning. "I still don't know what to even think."
The fire at the nightclub in the 700 block of Lake Street broke out early Sunday morning. The business was closed at the time. The fire gutted the interior of the business.
Investigators found what appeared to be anti-gay graffiti on the walls, and a back door may have been kicked in.
Police took away a portion of a wall with a possible handprint as evidence. A safe in the office was not touched.
"Nothing was touched, so it wasn't looking like they were trying to rob the place," Elliott said.
No one was injured. The fire damaged a restaurant and a toy store next door.
Many Oak Park residents say they hope this was not a hate crime. Several residents pointed out that Oak Park once had an openly gay village president.
The 11 employees who work at the Velvet Rope are now out of work. The owner is planning to open a new club in Chicago's Lakeview community in a few weeks and he hopes to move many of the employees to that business.