PLCB, Ali Baba’s Lounge needs to be shut down

Each week, The Beacon’s editorial board will take a stance on a current issue.

The ball is in your court, Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. It’s time to revoke the liquor license of the Ali Baba Liquor Lounge.

Back in November, management of the Ali Baba’s faced a hearing to try and renew the night club’s liquor license. The club has been operating under a temporary license since its expiration on Aug. 31, 2018. According to a fact sheet on the board’s website, the board “typically objects to the renewal of more than 150 licenses annually, often its statutory obligation to protect the safety, peace, health and welfare of the commonwealth.”

Should the board decide to not renew the lounge’s license, Ali Baba’s would have the opportunity to appeal to the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas.

However, The Citizens’ Voice reported on March 14 that the board is offering to allow Ali Baba Lounge to sell its license, rather than risk it being taken away. Such a sale would likely end the current establishment as it stands now.

University President Dr. Patrick Leahy testified in the November hearing that negative activity around the club plays a role in trying to attract prospective students.

Back in 2016, on Christmas morning, Wilkes-Barre Police responded to the parking lot of the Ali Baba Lounge for reports of gunshots, according to a campus-wide public safety notice. Later that day, a window in the UCOM was reported damaged and a bullet was recovered.

Admittedly, there have been reports of similar incidents at nearby businesses.

In July of last year, University Public Safety officers on patrol encountered a large fight in the 200-block of South Main Street near Donahue’s Irish Pub (located at 215 S. Main St.), according to another campus-wide public safety notice. Shortly after, officers heard what they believed to be multiple gun shots.

Most recently, there were more shots fired, a total of nine, on Sept. 1, 2018, when officers had to be dispatched to the Ali Baba Lounge for a shooting just outside, according to a Wilkes-Barre City Police Department Facebook post.

Just a few hundred feet.

That is what separates the Wilkes University campus from three shootings in just as many years. While admittedly some students were away from campus on breaks during these incidents, it’s frightening to realize how close these three shootings occured.

Think about it: That’s just a few hundred feet away from where up to 353 students sleep every night, as well as numerous other residential areas and off-campus apartments within the same distance.

Will the next incident impact the university directly? Proximity says it very well could.

Several Wilkes athletic teams have banned their student-athletes from even stepping foot inside the establishment, citing safety concerns, even those over 21 years of age.

The club was temporarily shut down back in February 2017 after city code officials investigated and confirmed code violations inside the building. Ali Baba’s was able to reopen in March 2018 after making appropriate adjustments.

According to published reports, club manager Ali Abualburak claims the lounge is the “safest establishment in the downtown — period.”

While Abualburak presented $1,500 in checks to law enforcement organizations in the past, it seems hypocritical to host acts such as rapper Uncle Murda (May 2017), whose rap lyrics promote killing law enforcement officers stating it’s “Time to start killing these coppers.” Let’s also not forget rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine, who admitted to using a 13-year old girl in a sexual performance in a video posted on Instagram, was originally supposed to play at the venue before Ali Baba’s announced the show’s cancellation, perhaps due to public outcry about the performance.

Promoting the “safest establishment in the downtown,” huh?

Overall, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board needs to step up to the plate and ensure Ali Baba’s Liquor Lounge is shut down, for good.