Rich Howells

Easton venue cancels sex offender 6ix9ine’s show while NEPA nightclubs promote his concerts

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Responding to widespread criticism and media attention, Easton concert venue One Centre Square has canceled a Feb. 9 concert with 6ix9ine while two Northeastern Pennsylvania venues have used the controversy to promote the upcoming shows they’ve booked with the Brooklyn rapper who currently awaits sentencing on child sex charges.

One Centre Square, which opened last June, posted the following statement on their Facebook page on Feb. 2:

Subsequent to booking the musical artist Tekashi 6ix9ine for a concert scheduled at One Center Square for Friday, February 9th, we became aware of details regarding a criminal proceeding involving the artist. Despite the fact that artist is scheduled to perform at a number of reputable venues including a college facility, the University of South Florida’s Sun Dome later this month, we have decided to cancel the concert. As we learned more about the unsettling incident in question, we no longer found the artist to be a suitable performer for our venue and we obviously do not condone his behavior in the incident. We refrained from earlier comment on the issue until we finalized the cancellation with the artist’s representatives.

Customers who purchased tickets online will be automatically refunded. For all other purchases, please seek refund at point of sale.

Meanwhile, the Ali Baba Lounge in Wilkes-Barre and Bentley’s Nightclub in Ashley are planning to sell out their scheduled 18+ events with 6ix9ine while deleting any negative comments on their Facebook posts promoting the concerts. On Feb. 2, Ali Baba posted, “Come see what everyone is talking about!” with a flyer for their April 21 event while Bentley’s posted about VIP passes to their Feb. 9 show with “#whyyoumad,” likely referring to the outpouring of anger they’ve received online.

Articles from several news sources and Facebook posts circulating online have detailed 6ix9ine’s crime and fueled a debate about the morality and safety of bringing the problematic artist to NEPA.

Born Daniel Hernandez, 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. Hernandez and another man, Taquan Anderson, made a series of three videos that year 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 was scheduled to be sentenced on Tuesday, 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.

Facebook comments on NEPA Scene’s original story on Feb. 1 continue to rage on days later, with the majority of commenters questioning why local venues would book him in the first place and admonishing both clubs as well as 6ix9ine. Some, however, have defended them all, with one woman, Sabrina Rodriguez, saying, “Don’t forget to request me as your waitress!” while posting the Bentley’s flyer in the comments. Another commenter shared a screenshot of a now-deleted post from the Bentley’s Facebook page where 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 isn’t the first time the nearby Ali Baba Lounge has booked a controversial artist, though this situation seems more heated. 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.

Abualburak has not yet released a statement in response to the backlash from his latest booking other than another repost of the flyer promoting the event, indicating that it’s moving forward anyway.

“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.”

  • Joann Cannon Travis