Former owner charged in Velvet Rope fire

Sat. November 2, 2013 9:30 AM by News Staff

booking photo of frank elliot

photo credit // oak park police department
Oak Park, IL - The former owner of Velvet Rope Ultra Lounge, which was destroyed by a fire last year, has been charged with two counts of arson and one count of insurance fraud.

Frank Elliott, 26, was arrested Friday night at the Bonsai Bar, the business he operates at 3503 N. Halsted in Chicago, according to Oak Park Police.

Immediately after the early morning June 3, 2012 fire at the nightclub on 728 Lake St., Elliott told that he believed the fire was "suspicious" because anti-gay comments were found on one of the walls inside the club. Elliott said he believed his establishment was targeted because it catered to gay clientele.

Two adjacent businesses, Gepetto's Toy Box and Flat Top Grill, also suffered smoke and water damage in the 2012 fire.

After local investigators determined there was probable cause for arson, state investigators were called in. Elliott filed a $150,000 insurance claim, according to prosecutors. 

"This incident was a troubling one for our community, who prides itself on being open and welcoming to all. A hate crime didn't make sense," said Oak Park Police Chief Rick Tanksley, who in a press statement lauded the tenacity of investigators working on the case for more than a year.

Elliott was transported to Cook County Criminal Court, where he is awaiting a bond hearing scheduled for Saturday. If convicted, he 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. 

Update: Elliott's bond was set at $20,000 and he is next scheduled to appear in court Nov. 5. Prosecutors said Elliot and a friend doused the nightclub with high-grade alcohol and sprayed gay slurs on the walls before igniting the fire, reported the Chicago Tribune

Elliott's attorney, Richard Blass, said these are "serious charges, but it doesn't seem right."