Award-winning UpRising Bakery and Café (UpRising) in Lake in the Hills faces possible closure March 31 after many months of revenue losses and ongoing anti-LGBTQ+ harassment.
This stems from the harassment owner Corinna Sac received when she announced an all-ages family-friendly "Starry Night Drag Brunch" event July 23, 2022. Sac, who is bisexual, was born and raised in McHenry County, where UpRsing is located, and has had years of culinary experience in restaurants, country clubs and catering.
Sac told Windy City Times that she has made sure her bakery had choices for all diets and beliefs so that everyone would be welcomed.
"We work very hard to make sure we are providing…quality food, services and employment for individuals that typically are turned away because they need gluten-free and/or vegan options in the area directly surrounding my store," said Sac in a statement to Windy City Times. "Throughout history, bakeries have been essential community resources, providing food to pantries and unhoused people, donations to fundraisers, gathering places and an educational resource. These five points create the moral and ethical pillars of UpRising Bakery."
Sac added that she presented her plans for potential events at UpRising in the summer of 2021 to her landlord and Lake in the Hills village leaders and received no pushback or cease-and-desist actions from them. When she posted the all-ages family-friendly "Starry Night Drag Brunch" event to social media on July 6, 2022, she began to receive "hundreds of fake bad reviews and threats of rape and other violence and death threats toward me. Threats of taking my children away from me, including reporting me to the Department of Children and Family Services. I had multiple people follow me home. People were calling the business, my personal cell, and even my kid's phones. They were emailing in threats with extremely personal information about our family pets. We had people getting information from the schools my kids attend, and then sharing communications and information regarding my kids' learning educational history."
Lake in the Hills police, whom Sac has called "amazing," were unable to help her, other than telling her to never leave her children alone, take different routes home every day, never go out in public alone, never work alonewhich put stress on her businessand report any suspicious behavior to them.
Additionally, people posted hateful comments on social media, someone came into the store and spat on the display case, another person left a bag of feces in front of the store, and a sign was put up that said, "Pedophiles work here."
The day before the drag brunch was set to take place, the store was vandalized. Three storefront windows were smashed, the glass door was destroyed and the spray-painted slogans "Groomers," "Fags rape kids!" and "Christ is King" appeared, so Sac decided to cancel the event due to safety concerns. The person accused of the crime, known Proud Boys member Joseph I. Collins of Alsip, Illinois, was arrested and charged with a felony hate crime and criminal damage to property.
On July 28, 2022, Sac was summoned by Lake in the Hills officials to a meeting in their office where they threatened to issue a fine to her business for the cost of police barricades and other village costs due to the security required to hold the drag brunch event after outside threats were made to UpRising. Lake in the Hills officials barred her from holding drag shows or other entertainment events at that same meeting, since they said the bakery does not have the proper zoning for such events.
"In the following months my staff, our customers and supporters were doxed," said Sac. "People took pictures off their license plates and published all of the personal information they could gather from that on the internet. Children, patrons of my business, were outed and ousted at school because of this. Parents and adults patronizing my business were targeted and harassed at their homes and jobs, and on at least three reported occasions, they lost their jobs. People actually lost their livelihoods because their information was stolen, published without their consent and hatefully exploited by bigots. My staff were targeted outside of work, a few of them now diagnosed with PTSD and no longer with the company for their mental wellbeing. These anti-LGBTQ protests outside my store went on for more than 120 days in a row, beginning last summer."
Since then, Sac said UpRising has had its revenue stream lessened due to being dropped by two farmers' markets who cited safety concerns as the reason, both local Chambers of Commerce (UpRising is a paid executive member of both of those Chambers), loss of support from Village of Lake in the Hills leadership and loss of individual customers due to fears of being doxed and harassed by anti-LGBTQ bigots.
So far, Sac said she has lost almost $80,000 in revenue and is struggling to pay off the debts that have accrued, including the rent on the building. Sac said she is prioritizing paying her suppliers and remaining employees' (two-thirds have left due to their fears and insecurity about their future) salaries so they can survive financially.
Sac told Windy City Times that since last summer she has been diagnosed with anxiety, depression and PTSD. Sac's two children have also been traumatized by what has happened. Sac said her husband's job was also threatened since he had to take time off and change his schedule to be there for their children when she had to work at UpRising. She said all of this made her contemplate dying by suicide.
One of Uprising's trans women employees (who has asked to remain anonymous) told Windy City Times that "I had a lot of anxiety trying to find a job where I would be accepted. Right from the beginning of my employment, the owner and all of the employees were extremely welcoming and respectful. The work culture at Uprising is accepting, friendly and forgiving. I am always paid on time and can review my hours worked and tips to make sure that my pay is right. I have never had a problem with pay or tips at uprising."
Sac told Windy City Times that, despite everything that has happened, she would still "rise up again and again and do it a thousand times over. I know I did the right thing and am fighting for the rights of people who do not have a voice. I am their voice, and I will make sure that things change, laws are passed and people no matter their age, race, sex, sexuality, gender or others are protected and free.
"Despite what some may say online, we are not playing the victim. We are the victims. We are not sheepishly crying in the corner because we are victims, we are taking our experience and our platform and are demanding change and equality. I am a bisexual woman and I would never seek out to 'use' the LGBTQ community and 'victimize' our situation. The situation we are in is real, and it is a result of the disinformation about the LGBTQ community. It is my destiny to fix that and make LGBTQ people safe now, and forever. If I decide to close and cower in my corner, they win. The local LGBTQ community does not have a safe space or positive representation, they do not have a voice. If I close, they are empowered to start attacking other civil and human rights that belong to all people here in America. They can go after women, different races, they can go after our children. I am not giving them that power. I am keeping my power, my voice so I can make a difference for those who do not have power and voice."
In order to stay open for the moment, Sac said she has to raise $30,000 or more by March 31 but that is not enough to keep UpRising open in the months and years to come. They need to increase their customer base, including wholesale accounts, and keep them coming in on a regular basis, as well as have "sold-out events, larger catering orders and more sustainable support to replace what we have lost. Without this, the community loses UpRising. This is why we, and our supporters, are doing this fundraising.
See www.uprisingbakeryandcafe.com/, www.gofundme.com/f/rise-up-for-uprising-bakery-and-cafe and www.gofundme.com/f/save-the-uprising-bakery to make a donation.