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Velvet Rope fire ruled an arson
by Kate Sosin, Windy City Times

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A fire that ravaged Oak Park's gay nightclub has been ruled an arson.

Investigators have determined that the fire that tore through the Velvet Rope Ultra Lounge, 728 Lake St., June 3 was set intentionally, said Deputy Chief Kenneth Klemm, of the Oak Park Fire Department.

"The [police department] has taken over the investigation," said Klemm.

Police Commander Phyliss Howard previously told Windy City Times that "there was some graffiti that would lead us to believe" that it might be either a hate crime or something like that."

David Powers, communications director for Oak Park, confirmed the presence of graffiti in the building but said that it is too soon to tell if the fire was an anti-gay crime.

"I believe that the police are looking at ever aspect," Powers said.

Powers added that the possibility that the arson was connected to anti-gay sentiments was a difficult one for the community to grasp. Powers noted that the bar has been operating for years without incident and that the neighborhood is welcoming of LGBT people.

"We'd be a little surprised if it really turned out to be a hate crime, but police are not ruling anything out," he said.

News of the fire has worried many LGBT people in Oak Park and Chicago.

Greg Raub, co-chair of the Oak Park Area Lesbian & Gay Association echoed Powers' sentiments that the area is known as a welcoming and diverse place. He said his group was "naturally concerned" about the reports of arson.

We are also greatly concerned about speculation that the Velvet Rope may have been targeted because of its gay ownership and clientele," said Raub.

According to police, the investigation is ongoing. No one is in custody at this time.

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