Ali Baba’s Management Under Scrutiny At Liquor Hearing
WILKES-BARRE TWP. — As the Ali Baba Liquor Lounge seeks renewal of its liquor license, authorities on Wednesday presented a state Liquor Control Board hearing officer with a laundry list of troubling incidents that have unfolded at the notorious club over the years.
During a hearing at the Courtyard by Marriott, Wilkes-Barre police officers laid out an extensive history of alcohol-fueled disturbances, fights and violent confrontations they have responded to over the years at the club at 219 S. Main St.
The most serious incident was the unsolved July 19 homicide of Collin Jones, 26, of Brooklyn, New York. Jones had been involved in a fight inside the club prior to being shot in the head while driving away in a black Nissan Rogue, which then crashed into a pole on South Street.
Wilkes-Barre police Detective Charles Jensen testified that police were unable to get surveillance video from inside the club because the owner claimed it had been damaged in a thunderstorm. He also said investigators have gotten “negative results” as they have tried to contact an Ali Baba’s security guard who was present during the fight.
Wilkes University President Dr. Patrick Leahy said that while there had been other incidents of concern to the university, the middle-of-the-night call he got about Jones’ murder raised his level of concern.
“That’s when it really raised the awareness to me of the challenges at that location,” Leahy said, adding that the university subsequently wrote a letter urging the Liquor Control Board to reject the renewal of the club’s liquor license.
Danger in the community — such as the homicide at the club — “directly impacts our ability to recruit” new students, he said.
“My biggest concern is the safety of our constituents that are entrusted to the university’s care,” Leahy said.
While several police officers offered testimony about problems at the club, they also acknowledged that management takes steps to keep order, such as maintaining a private security force as well as hiring details of off-duty police officers.
Police Officer Cory Dumont agreed that he finds Ali Baba’s management to be “generally helpful and cooperative,” and Patrolman Robert Collins said the club does not encourage patrons to get drunk and unruly.
“They check everybody at the door. If there’s any problems inside they eject that person instead of letting it continue,” Collins said. “They bring them out front: ‘This guy’s done.’ And then we handle it from there.”
The Liquor Control Board sent a letter dated Aug. 10 to Nabil Abualburak, owner of Omnia Bar and Ali Baba Liquor Lounge alleging he abused his licensing privilege as outlined in four citations over the past eight years and about 26 disturbances at or in the area of the club over the past two years.
The letter from the also alleges that the club owners — Nabil M. Abualburak, president, secretary, treasurer, manager; Manal Saleem Daghlas, secretary; and Samer N. Abualburak, treasurer, are “not responsible (people) of good repute and/or have become (persons) of ill repute.” The three are also listed as directors and stockholders.
The club’s license expired Aug. 31, but the club can continue operating through the adjudication process on a temporary license.
The hearing is scheduled to run through Friday.