A bakery that faced harassment and vandalism after advertising for a family-friendly drag show is now being threatened with code violations if it hosts any future events, according to a letter sent from the far northwest suburb to the bakery’s owner.
The letter was sent to Corinna Sac, owner of UpRising Bakery and Cafe in Lake in the Hills, on Friday by the village, spurring a response from the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois condemning the village’s actions.
“Our hands are being tied and our backs are being forced up against the wall by our landlord and the village of Lake in the Hills,” Sac said in a video posted to social media, in which she grows emotional as she says she canceled two upcoming events.
UpRising Bakery, which frequently offers live music sessions, poetry slams and other community events, began receiving angry calls and social media reviews last month when it advertised for a kid-friendly drag brunch scheduled for July 23.
The harassment intensified, with people calling workers pedophiles and even, in one case, leaving a bag of feces outside the store, Sac previously told the Tribune. She eventually canceled the event — which had police expecting crowds of protesters and counterprotesters — after the bakery was broken into and vandalized with slurs the night before the show was set to take place.
Lake in the Hills police arrested Joseph Collins, 24, of Alsip. He was charged with a class 4 felony hate crime and criminal damage to property. Kid-friendly drag events have been held in the Chicago area for years, pitched as a way to offer inclusive programming for children, but events across the country have been targeted by far right groups.
Sac initially praised the response of Lake in the Hills police, saying the department acted quickly to investigate the reports of harassment and vandalism, but the relationship apparently took a turn last week. In the July 29 letter, a lawyer representing the village wrote that officials are “concerned that there appears to be an entertainment event” advertised on the bakery’s Facebook page, along with other future events. It says the village’s position is that the strip mall where the bakery is located is not zoned for entertainment.
“Should the village become aware of any entertainment events continuing to be advertised at the UpRising Bakery and Cafe location, it will pursue appropriate enforcement actions,” the letter said, including fines of up to $750 per day and the suspension or revocation of business or liquor licenses.
The letter was at least the second sent to Sac that month. A letter on July 8 sent by a village official reminded the bakery of their tax obligations, not to create a fire hazard and other local rules, but said officials are “not aware that any specific issue” would arise from holding the drag event.
In statements sent to the Tribune, the village reiterated that it believes the events violate zoning ordinances and said it sought to address the zoning issues because the business model of the bakery “fundamentally changed” by offering “regular and extended entertainment events.” Sac has said that the bakery has always held events.
In a meeting with Sac before the July 29 letter was sent, the village told her it had received complaints from nearby businesses and residents about safety concerns and loss of business, a village statement said.
“Standing with our community and businesses, the village demonstrated unwavering support to UpRising Bakery and Cafe, staying alongside the business to fight against hate in every way possible,” the village said. “It is disheartening that our actions are now being portrayed in a different light.
In the video posted to social media, Sac said she was forced to cancel a Disney karaoke event as well as a resume writing workshop.
“There was a concern for how much resources we are taking from village,” Sac said in the video, recapping the meeting she had with officials last week. “I feel like this is discrimination and a conspiracy to interfere with my business.”
In a letter sent to Lake in the Hills on Saturday, the ACLU said the village’s actions are unconstitutional.
The letter, from senior staff attorney Rebecca Glenberg, said the ACLU disputes that the bakery’s events constitute a zoning violation, but said that even if that were true, the village’s “sudden determination to enforce the code against UpRising or Ms. Sac based on their exercise of First Amendment rights constitutes unconstitutional retaliation.”
Glenberg noted that Sac canceled the two upcoming events out of an “abundance of caution” but asked for the village’s assurances that the bakery will be able to hold future events.
“Village officials initially seemed inclined to support Ms. Sac and her business in the wake of this horrific event,” the letter reads. “Unfortunately, they have chosen instead to give the person who attacked and vandalized UpRising exactly what he apparently wanted.”
Sac said in the video that she has held community events since the bakery opened, and has never been told it was an issue. She said the events are necessary to keep her business operational.
“I’m incredibly saddened and mad and upset and angry that they are taking this stance against us,” Sac said.