Code Issue Closes Ali Baba Lounge
WILKES-BARRE — The Ali Baba Liquor Lounge, a venue with a history of hosting controversial acts, was abruptly shuttered on Friday, with city code officials posting a notice declaring the premises “unfit for human habitation.”
The notice says the facility at 219 S. Main St. could not be legally occupied after 5 p.m. Friday, putting an immediate halt to operations at the nightclub, which had been promoting two events this weekend.
At the scene Friday afternoon, property owner Nabil Abualburak said city officials shut the club down because someone reported a code violation over work he had done some time ago.
“Somebody snitched,” he said.
Mayor Tony George said a building inspector went through the building Friday afternoon and discovered that work done inside the building had not been approved by zoning and violated the fire code.
“They did some work, I guess several years ago on the inside, knocking down fire walls,” George said. “When they found that out, they closed it down because it’s a fire code violation. I don’t want a major fire there and have 20, 30, 40, 50 people (killed).”
The closure comes as the club was preparing to host a dance competition Friday night between “go-go dancers” and bartenders. Tonight, the club was scheduled to host a performance by rapper MariahLynn, who gained prominence on the VH1 show “Love & Hip Hop: New York.”
After code officials shut down the club, George said the owner called him asking permission to stay open through the weekend before making the repairs.
“I said, ‘No, you can’t. If the inspector said it’s a code violation, it’s a code violation and you have to fix the wall,’” George said. “(Having a big weekend) is not an excuse to open up. If there’s a fire, we’re responsible.”
Abualburak said he was working to resolve the issue, but he was not sure how long it would take to make the repairs.
The venue has recently made headlines because of an upcoming performance in April by controversial New York City rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine, whose real name is Daniel Hernandez. The rainbow-haired rapper is currently free on bail pending sentencing after admitting to posting lewd videos of himself and a 13-year-old girl on Instagram.
After details about the rapper’s legal troubles surfaced, organizers at One Centre Square in Easton canceled a performance he had scheduled there, but Ali Baba as well as Bentley’s Nightclub 1.0 in Ashley did not.
The show at Bentley’s took place Feb. 9 and appears to have gone off without a hitch, although a gunfight between suspected gang members broke out there following a performance by Detroit rapper Dej Loaf the next night.
If Ali Baba reopens in time — and if Hernandez manages to remain out of prison after he is sentenced April 10 — the show in Wilkes-Barre on April 21 will mark the second time in less than a year the venue made news because of a controversial entertainer. Last May, the venue hosted Brooklyn, New York, rapper Uncle Murda, whose music calls for killing police officers.
After that performance, club operator Ali Abualburak presented $1,500 in checks to law enforcement causes, asserting that his business supported and had a great relationship with law enforcement.
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