The Velvet Rope is a night spot with a gay vibe that has been operating without a lot of attention for several years on Lake Street in The Avenue business district. That changed early Sunday morning when a suspicious fire gutted the storefront.
So far we know that the fire originated in the Velvet Rope space. We know that officials have said arson is the likely cause. We know there were some sort of anti-gay slogans written on the interior walls. And surely from the first word of the fire early Sunday, there were suspicions voiced by many that there might be an anti-gay, hate-crime aspect to this disturbing event. That's both a lot and a little to know as the Oak Park police and fire departments, joined by the state fire marshal, undertake a thorough investigation.
Patience is called for. With the evidence on record already, nothing here will be hidden for long. But letting officials sift the wreckage, undertake the interviews, investigate the backgrounds of all involved is the right next step. There will be time enough once that work is done to respond to the outcome, whether it is a hate crime, a financial crime or has some other motivation.
Meanwhile, our thoughts are with the owners of two adjacent businesses — Geppetto's Toy Box and Flat Top Grill — which are currently closed for cleanup from smoke damage in the case of the toy store and from somewhat greater damage at the restaurant. Running a small business is a dicey proposition and when these two ventures reopen, it would be a great time to show your appreciation with a purchase.