Repairs to start soon on Velvet Rope space in Oak Park

Landlord says it could be ready for a tenant in about a month

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By Devin Rose

Staff Reporter

The landlord of an Oak Park nightclub destroyed in a fire this past summer said he's just starting to clean out the Lake Street space and begin repairs there before leasing it out again.

Mike Fox, with R.P. Fox and Associates, owns the building at 728 Lake St. that closed following a fire on June 3 that Oak Park police determined to be arson. Fox said his insurance will cover the bulk of repairs to bring it back to a new but empty space. There will be new flooring and new bathrooms in the location that formerly housed the Velvet Rope Ultra Lounge, Fox said. It should be ready to move into in about a month or a month and a half.

Fox said there are a couple of people who have expressed interest in the space, but "it's very difficult because I haven't been able to give anyone a delivery date" of exactly how long repairs will take. He said the lease for Velvet Rope owner Frank Elliott was up in July.

When reached by phone Friday, Elliott said he was now focusing on Bonsai Bar, a bar he is planning to open soon in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood. He was waiting on the final inspection that day, he said.

If he did re-open Velvet Rope, Elliott said, it's possible it could be at the Lake Street location but might be at a different spot in the same area. He said he will wait to get Bonsai up and running before deciding what to do about Velvet Rope. But if the Lake Street space is still available at that time, he would "absolutely" look into moving back there.

"I have a lot more, obviously, on the line with Chicago," he said about Bonsai, which he has been working on since December.

Elliott was named as a defendant in an ongoing breach of contract lawsuit alleging the he and Velvet Rope's previous owner, Carol Bertacchi, defaulted on a loan. The lender, Ellen Bettenhausen, is seeking more than $60,000 plus interest, to date, from the current and former owners. In a separate lawsuit, a wholesale food supply company alleged that Elliott owed more than $5,000 for products he purchased.

Fox would not comment on whether Elliott was up to date on his rent payments.

Elliott said he did not know where police were in their investigation, and he hadn't talked to them in about two weeks. He also did not know whether his insurance company had settled the matter.

Oak Park Police Chief Rick Tanksley said in an email that his department is "not at liberty to disclose if an insurance claim has been paid."

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