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LCB Refuses To Renew Liquor License For Ali Baba; For Sale Sign In Window

May 2, 2019

WILKES-BARRE — The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board voted Wednesday not to renew the liquor license for the troubled downtown nightclub. PLCB spokesman Shawn Kelly said today that the board refused to renew the license for Nabil Abualburak Inc., trading as Omnia Bar & Grill and Ali Baba Lounge at 219 S. Main St. A “for sale” sign was seen posted in a window of the lounge today. Club manager Ali Abualburak, the son of Nabil Abualburak, referred comment to his attorney. Bill Byrne, Abualburak’s attorney, said his client is appealing the PLCB’s decision. An appeal was filed today in Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas. Kelly said a hearing in county court would be “de novo” – that is, the court hears the case without any deference to prior rulings or decisions. There is no timetable for this hearing. During this process, the licensee can continue to work with the PLCB to reach an arrangement that is acceptable to both parties, Kelly said. Byrne and Kelly both agreed that the law allows for the club to continue operating during the appeals process. And Byrne said that it would remain open through the process. Once the county court of common pleas renders its decision, either side can appeal to Commonwealth Court. The controversial nightspot has been operating on a temporary license since its full license expired Aug. 31. During a license renewal hearing in November, neighbors described dealing with thumping music and crowded sidewalks, and Wilkes University President Patrick Leahy urged the board to reject the license renewal because of safety concerns. Wilkes-Barre police detailed a number of troublesome incidents that have taken place at or near the bar, including the unsolved July 19 homicide of Collin Jones, 26, of Brooklyn, New York. Jones had been involved in a fight at the club prior to being shot in the head while driving away from the scene, according to police. But officers also described the club management as “generally helpful and cooperative” and said the owners have done “everything they can to prevent” trouble at the club. The PLCB in March announced its intentions to give the owners of the club a chance to sell their license rather than risk the board stripping it away altogether prior to the matter going to a vote. The club opened in 2015 and has featured hip hop artists such as Cardi B, Young M.A, Fat Joe, Ace Hood, Remy Ma and A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie. The club is listed with Lewith Freeman at $2.1 million, which includes the liquor license, inventory, furniture, surveillance cameras, seven point-of-sale systems and a tap system. The sale price also includes three two-bedroom upstairs apartments. Regarding the decision to sell the club, Ali Abualburak replied: “It is what it is. It’s just time to sell, ya know.”