Ali Baba Lounge’s license under PLCB scrutiny, renewal uncertain

By Jerry Lynott - [email protected]
The Ali Baba Lounge is seen on South Main Street in Wilkes-Barre. The club’s liquor license is being reviewed by the state’s Liquor Control Board. - Times Leader file photo

WILKES-BARRE — The renewal of the Ali Baba Lounge’s liquor license is in doubt.

“It is alleged that you have abused your licensing privilege,” states a recent letter from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board to license holder Nabil Abualburak Inc. If the nightclub’s license is not renewed, it could no longer legally sell alcoholic beverages.

The PLCB intends to hold a hearing on the allegations and license renewal at a yet-to-be-determined date.

Ali Baba has had its share of notoriety for what’s happened inside and outside. It’s presented shows even though the city said the club was not zoned as an entertainment venue. And police have responded to reports of gunshots in the vicinity of the 219-225 S. Main St. club as recently as Sept. 1.

No injuries were reported in the most recent police response. However, a Brooklyn, N.Y., man died from a gunshot wound to the head while driving away after a fight broke out outside the bar July 19. The death of 26-year-old Collin Jones was ruled a homicide. No arrests have been made in the fatal shooting.

Ali Abualburak, the manager of the club, previously said Ali Baba has wrongly been labeled a trouble spot. Abualburak referred questions about the license renewal to attorney Frank Hoegen, who did not return a call for comment Wednesday.

The PLCB alleged there have been 26 “incidents of disturbances” from September 2016 to Aug. 10, the date of the letter, that include “disorderly operations, visibly intoxicated patrons, fights, assault, public drunkenness, drugs, and after hours.”

The letter also said corporation officers Nabil M. Abualburak, Manal Saleem Daghlas and Samer N. Abualburak are considered persons of “ill repute” or “not a responsible person of good repute” because of the alleged liquor-code violations.

The liquor license for Nabil Abualburak Inc., doing business as the Omnia Bar & Grill and Ali Baba Lounge, has expired. The state granted temporary authority to operate starting Sept. 1.

Entertainment issue

Wilkes-Barre city Administrator Ted Wampole said he has not seen the PLCB letter. “Once we get the letter and review it, we’ll examine the options available to us,” Wampole said.

The city has received a letter from attorney Mark McNealis who represents Ali Baba in the zoning issue, Wampole said. That’s being reviewed, he noted.

McNealis said Tuesday that Ali Baba has been offering entertainment for years before the zoning issue came up in July.

Based on his review of the city’s zoning ordinance, McNealis said, “There’s really nothing we need to apply for.”

Wilkes-Barre Zoning Officer Bill Harris said he disagreed.

He can issue a citation to Ali Baba and it can either comply or appeal it to the city’s Zoning Hearing Board.

When the issue arose in July, Harris allowed Ali Baba to continue hosting live entertainment pending the filing of an application with the Zoning Hearing Board.

There was no agenda item relating to Ali Baba at the board’s Aug. 22 public meeting. And nothing for Ali Baba is on the agenda for the Sept. 19 session.

The Ali Baba Lounge is seen on South Main Street in Wilkes-Barre. The club’s liquor license is being reviewed by the state’s Liquor Control Board.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_TTL072918AliBaba2-3.jpgThe Ali Baba Lounge is seen on South Main Street in Wilkes-Barre. The club’s liquor license is being reviewed by the state’s Liquor Control Board. Times Leader file photo

By Jerry Lynott

[email protected]

Reach Jerry Lynott at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLJerryLynott.

Reach Jerry Lynott at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLJerryLynott.