Was the Village of Lake in the Hills Coerced by ACLU to Allow Local Business to Host Drag Shows?

By John Lopez

The controversy surrounding the UpRising Bakery & Café in Lake in the Hills (LITH) in southern McHenry County had built up for weeks concerning a scheduled “Brunch at Night” event titled “Starry Night Drag Brunch” running from 6-9PM CDT at the LITH location.

The venue, located in a strip shopping center on Algonquin Road, had been receiving anonymous threats on the door of the bakery and LITH Police had been notified of incidents in advance of the July 23 date as early as July 6.  Media reports tracked these threats and LITH Police Chief Mary Frake issued the following statement in mid July:

“The safety and Constitutional rights of everyone who choose to participate [in the drag show], in whatever capacity, is our priority.  However, under no circumstances will we tolerate a disruption of this event or any activity that disrupts the peace. Individuals who plan on attending, in support or opposition, with plans to engage in acts of violence or criminal activity will be met with police response.”

The police response was put to the test the night of July 22 and early July 23 at UpRising Bakery & Café.  Violence struck the bakery and the vandalism, presumably motivated by social media and/or calls for protest for the so-called “family friendly” drag show, resulted in enough damage the sold-out drag show had to be canceled for that Saturday.

Meanwhile, local law enforcement through LITH Police, with an assist from the Algonquin Police, quickly apprehended Joseph I. Collins of Alsip, who was arrested by LITH Police then transported to the McHenry County Correctional facility in Woodstock, where he was arraigned with two, Class 4 Felony charges:

  • Criminal Damage to Property $500-$10K
  • Hate Crime

Collins is due in court for a pretrial status hearing on August 26, and the case can be tracked through the McHenry County Circuit Clerk website under case 2022CF000570.

But the incident did not end there.  Far from it.

To be very clear, Joseph I. Collins is accused of commiting two felonies when he allegedly damaged the UpRising Bakery & Café property and should be prosecuted to the limit of the law.  He is presumed innocent until proven guilty in the 22nd Judicial Circuit Criminal Court and if found guilty, justice will be served.

Three days later, the LITH Village Code Enforcement, through the Village Attorney, notified UpRising of potential zoning violations given UpRising’s owner, through discussion with LITH officials, admitted the UpRising business needed revenues from special events, including drag shows, to stay in business.  LITH pointed out the B-2 zoning of the strip shopping center prohibited “entertainment” given the close proximity of homes, and other businesses within the strip mall.

UpRising Bakery & Café had opened its current LITH location in late 2021, and had entertainment/events at the bakery since early 2022.

It wasn’t until the controversy surrounding the now-canceled July 23 drag show which caught the attention of the general public, and given the timing of LITH’s notification of the zoning, the ACLU of Illinois, apparently seeing LITH’s enforcement of zoning ordinances as a backdoor way to retaliate against UpRising for promoting LGBTQ+ entertainment, sent its lawyers into LITH as the calendar turned to August.

Late afternoon on August 4, LITH Village officials, ACLU of Illinois attorneys and the attorney for UpRising Bakery & Café’s owner announced an agreement had been reached for the bakery to continue holding entertainment events.

As initial headlines read, the general public thought Village officials had capitulated to the ACLU in an “accept this agreement or else” with litigation coming LITH taxpayers way if the Village said no to entertainment in general and drag shows in particular at UpRising Bakery & Café.

If that were true, that is coercion and no matter what one thinks of the type of entertainment being shown at the bakery, ACLU lawyers bullying LITH taxpayers is wrong, if it’s true.

Illinois Family Action initiated a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) with LITH officials in order to learn the facts behind the “deal” announced on August 4.

Meanwhile, beginning August 5 with a surprise visit by Governor JB Pritzker, elected public officials began making what one local commenter called “pilgrimages” to the UpRising Bakery & Café in LITH, and to sign the plywood over the busted-out window with words of encouragement, as the governor did on August 5.

Congressman Bill Foster (wearing tie) outside UpRising Bakery & Café which is outside of his 11th Congressional District

In addition to Governor Pritzker, Congressman Bill Foster (D, Naperville), state Representative Suzanne Ness (D, Crystal Lake), local elected officials including LITH Village Board members, began making high profile visits to UpRising to show their support for the vandalized business.

With the agreement with LITH in hand, UpRising Bakery & Café rescheduled the canceled drag show for Sunday, August 7, and according to media reports, it went off without a hitch.

UpRising has scheduled an additional drag show for August 27.

As to the agreement, the FOIA was completed by LITH Village FOIA officer last week, and revealed the following points:

“The parties have reached an amicable understanding as to parameters which UpRising Bakery and Café can follow for any planned activites going forward, to ensure there are no significant impacts to neighboring properties.  These parameters also honor the Zoning Ordinance that does not contemplate 2104 Algonquin Road becoming an ‘entertainment’ venue.

“Accordingly, the following parameters are what the parties agreed are reasonable to allow UpRising Bakery and Café to host activites and in the spirit of the zoning requirements:”

Highlights of the bulleted list include:

  • UpRising ensures parking not deprived neighboring businesses
  • All activities conducted indoors
  • While hosting activities, UpRising Bakery and Café will remain open as a bakery/café accessible to the public
  • All Village Municipal Code and Zoning Ordinance requirements will be observed
  • Village and UpRising Bakery and Café will remain in communication to address any complaints received or concerns that are raised about activites going forward

The July 22-23 incident is referenced in the letter:

“While not a specific parameter pertaining to the Zoning Ordinance, understanding that a hate crime recently occurred at the premises, the Village requests that the owner and all employees are advised to contact the police department should a concern arise and that any threats or actual acts of violence be promptly reported.”

The entire agreement signed by the Lake in the Hills Village Attorney, and attorneys representing the ACLU of Illinois and the bakery owner, can be accessed here.  Was the Village of Lake in the Hills mau-maued to allow UpRising Bakery & Café to continue to host entertainment, including drag shows?

Illinois Family Action presents the facts, and in my honest opinion after reviewing the facts, the answer is no.

But what happens next for Lake in the Hills?  Concerns over the August 27 drag show are being expressed in local media (contents may be offensive to some).

Will concerns about the apparent inconsistent enforcement of LITH’s Zoning Ordinance inspire residents to be candidates to seek election to the LITH Village Board on April 4 in order to correct the Zoning enforcement, along with other issues in Lake in the Hills?

Just like any other issue in the United States, if citizens believe a change in government, including at the municipal level needed, they can act and will citizens act in Lake in the Hills remains to be seen.

John Lopez has written about policy and elections through the McHenry County Blog since 2019 through July 2021.  He is now semi-retired, and does freelance work with analytics, as well as political candidates, emphasizing policy as the means to advance the conservative message, by engaging through policy “dog fighting”, applying discernment for winning and advancing God’s Kingdom agenda.

John’s known for getting past the talking points, the narratives, the abstracts, the platitudes and the bromides in order to discuss policy and apply Scripture to overcome unholy divisions in the local community, our state, and nation.  John has been married for over 17 years.

Follow John on Twitter: @MarcVAvelar