WILKES-BARRE — The city will allow the Ali Baba Lounge to stay open while it applies for the proper zoning to stage live shows like those it’s been hosting for years at the downtown nightspot.
Ali Abualburak, manager of Ali Baba, met with zoning officer Bill Harris and other Wilkes-Barre officials Friday, a day after the city said the venue was not zoned for live entertainment.
“We’re going to follow the proper steps he says to get everything rolling the way he wants it,” Abualburak said of Harris.
The lounge and adjoining Omnia Bar & Grill have a liquor license and an amusement permit, both issued by the state. Abualburak maintained the permit allowed him to hold live performances. The city zoning hearing board in 2013 approved a hookah lounge for the property at 219-225 S. Main St.
The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board issued a statement Thursday that said it does not have the final say in a dispute such as the one involving Ali Baba.
“Whether the liquor code or some other law prevails when they are in conflict is not for us to decide, but rather for a court of general jurisdiction to decide,” PLCB spokesman Shawn Kelly said.
Harris said Abualburak and his engineer George Albert were provided information about the procedure to apply for zoning. The next public meeting of the zoning board is at 4:30 p.m. Aug. 22 in council’s fourth-floor chambers at City Hall.
Ali Baba has been doing business without the zoning and that can continue pending the zoning board’s decision, said Harris.
“I have no reason for them not to be open,” he said.
The lounge has been the focus of much attention, good and bad.
The city ordered it shut down earlier this year for a code violation. It was allowed to open after complying with terms presented by the city and it also had to install a sprinkler system.
Wilkes-Barre police reported one man was injured in a shooting early Thursday “in the area of the Ali Baba Lounge.” And some of the acts booked for the lounge have been controversial like the rapper 6ix9ine. His April 21 show was canceled. At the time, he was awaiting sentencing in New York for his guilty plea to the use of a child in a sexual performance.
Abualburak protested the lounge has been wrongly labeled a trouble spot. For instance, the shooting Thursday did not occur in Ali Baba, yet the lounge was the only business on the street that was singled out, he said.
The lounge has held charity events and fundraisers, he noted.
“We’re invested in the city. We’re an asset to the city. We’re good people,” said Abualburak.
Reach Jerry Lynott at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLJerryLynott.