Rich Howells

Ali Baba Lounge in Wilkes-Barre cancels rapper 6ix9ine’s show, closes temporarily

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Following the recent cancellation of controversial rapper 6ix9ine’s show at Easton concert venue One Centre Square, the Ali Baba Lounge in Wilkes-Barre has followed suit and canceled its April 21 show, though it does not appear to be for the same reason.

The 21-year-old rapper is currently out on bail after pleading guilty to a felony count of Use of a Child in a Sexual Performance in 2015. One Centre Square made it clear in a Feb. 2 Facebook post that, due to backlash they received from the public for booking 6ix9ine and after learning “about the unsettling incident in question,” they “no longer found the artist to be a suitable performer for our venue and we obviously do not condone his behavior in the incident.” That same day, Ali Baba used the negative social media response they received to promote their concert, posting “Come see what everyone is talking about!” with a flyer on Facebook and subsequently deleting any public criticism from commenters.

On Feb. 16, however, they reposted the same flyer with “cancelled” written across it, stating, “The 6ix9ine concert is canceled. All tickets have been refunded in full at point of sale.” No further details were provided. A few hours later, the venue revealed in another Facebook post that it was closed for the weekend due to a fire code violation but would reopen soon:

Ali Baba Liquor Lounge will be closed this weekend. We WILL be open very soon.

City officials shut the venue down until a minor code issue is up to date regarding a wall that was taken down. Even though it’s a minor issue, we decided to keep the venue closed until this issue is fixed.

The MariahLynn concert will be rescheduled to a different date and it will be posted soon. All tickets for this event will still be valid for the changed date. Again that date will be posted soon.

We are deeply sorry an inconvenience that this may have caused.

We will keep everyone posted… stand by.

We will be up in no time. Ali Baba Liqour Lounge is not going anywhere. We will be up and running back to normal business hours in no time.

Thank you for your time and continued support.

Another local venue, the recently reopened Bentley’s Nightclub in Ashley, also received public flack for booking 6ix9ine for a Feb. 9 concert. Responding to Facebook comments, Bentley’s claimed that the rapper committed “no crime at all” and added “people are just mad because they’re bitter and bored and have nothing to do with their lives” instead of worrying about the president of the United States “sending threats that can eventually cause a threat to the whole entire country.” This was later deleted, along with all its Facebook posts about the event.

The show was held without incident, but just days later, around 5 a.m. on Feb. 11, a shooting occurred outside the venue, with blood and shell casings left behind at the scene. Police suspect rival gangs are involved, and the investigation is still ongoing. It has been reported since that Bentley’s owes over $1 million on its mortgage and is currently being foreclosed on.

Meanwhile, 6ix9ine, born Daniel Hernandez, has his own legal troubles and shootings to deal with. In 2015, Hernandez and another man, Taquan Anderson, made a series of three videos with a nude 13-year-old girl that were uploaded publicly to Instagram.

According to court documents, the first video shows her having oral sex with Anderson while Hernandez makes a trusting motion with his pelvis behind her as he smacks her buttocks, the second video shows her sitting on Hernandez’s lap in her underwear as Anderson pours liquid on her and grabs her breasts, and the third video shows her nude lying across the laps of both men while Anderson touches her legs and vagina.

Also known as Tekashi69, Hernandez pled guilty to a felony count of Use of a Child in a Sexual Performance and was scheduled to be sentenced in January, but after failing to pass the test to earn his high school equivalency diploma as part of the plea deal, his sentencing was delayed until April 10.

Despite this, 6ix9ine’s debut single, “Gummo,” peaked at No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and was certified gold by the RIAA in January. With his rainbow-colored hair, matching rainbow grill, and tattoos across his face and the rest of his body, the rapper seems to be known for his appearance as much as his music and is set to release his first mixtape on Feb. 23.

Earlier this month, 6ix9ine was involved in a series of incidents in Minnesota. While he was on stage, a bucket of ice was thrown at him from the balcony, and a physical altercation outside the venue led to gunshots. He later bragged that he is “never gonna get touched” in a video posted to Instagram.

“Why niggas want me to get touched so badly? It’ll never happen. I told you niggas. They will never touch me. Niggas can’t lay a finger on me, man,” he said in the video.

Incidents like this made many locals question how safe it would be for the Ali Baba Lounge to bring 6ix9ine to Wilkes-Barre. As discussed on the NEPA Scene Podcast, Ali Baba came under fire last May for booking another Brooklyn rapper, Uncle Murda, last May, whose songs promote killing police officers. Owner Ali Abualburak responded by saying that he respects law enforcement and often pays officers to watch over his business and maintain security.

“In my opinion, Ali Baba Lounge is by far the safest bar/nightclub in all of NEPA. The safety of our patrons and local community is top priority each night that we open for business. Ali Baba Lounge has a police detail present each night that we are open which we pay for. There is no law stating that we must have these details. Management has decided that these details will add to the safety of our customers. These details are not put in place to harass patrons. These details are put in place to ensure the safety of everyone entering the lounge. These details also have built a strong relationship between members of the community and local law enforcement. It’s a beautiful thing to see customers shake hands and greet local law enforcement,” Abualburak posted on Facebook on May 14 before the show on May 19.

“In addition to the police details, Ali Baba Lounge employs its own security personnel. On nights of shows or major special events, we have double layer pat downs and a security guard stationed to cover every inch of our inside. Our security guards are experienced, healthy, educated in nightclub security, and capable of handling any scenario that comes their way. In addition to that, they are experts in preventing any serious situation from arising.”

The concert proceeded without incident, and Abualburak donated a portion of proceeds to law enforcement. The Ali Baba Lounge has hosted many events since, from dance parties to go-go dancers to hip-hop artists, including a sold-out concert on Jan. 27 with A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, who collaborated with 6ix9ine and Fetty Wap on the single “KEKE.”

The fact that its own police detail in addition to security guards is necessary at all does raise concerns about Ali Baba, however. Since opening in 2015, several incidents in and around the venue and troubled neighborhood have been reported, such as fights, a 2017 stabbing, and a recent sexual assault.

“Regardless of what anyone says or believes, Ali Baba Lounge has become the most successful and professionally run nightlife venue in all of the area. Numbers don’t lie. We have over 10,000 regular customers. On an average weekend, we cater to 1,500 to 2,500 people from all walks of life. Diversity is a huge aspect of Ali Baba Lounge. We cater to college students, nurses, doctors, lawyers, teachers, politicians, and yes even police officers,” Abualburak wrote on Facebook last May before the Uncle Murda show.

“Ali Baba Lounge brought modern day entertainment to Wilkes-Barre, and we are here to stay.”