First Posted: 5/22/2013
WILKES -BARRE — The city’s Zoning Hearing Board again denied a business owner’s attempt to open a hookah bar and expand his pizza restaurant on South Main Street.
The board Wednesday voted 4-0 to deny a special exception to Nabil Abualburak, owner of Mr. Pizza, to build an 1,800-square-foot hookah bar — in which patrons would smoke flavored tobacco from a water pipe — and add 69 more seats to his restaurant. Abualburak failed at his first attempt before the board in February.
Parking was a recurring issue as Abualburak sought a variance to waive the requirement of 32 parking spaces under his project estimated to cost $150,000. In his second attempt, he came before the board with a lease for 32 parking spaces from a nearby property owner. He planned to pay the property owner $35 for each space.
Family members and people who identified themselves as college students supported the project, saying it would add to the downtown nightlife for students.
But among the concerns voiced by opponents was allowing 18-year-olds in the establishment where beer is sold and served.
Attorney Frank Hoegen, who represented Abualburak, said he was uncertain what the next step will be. “We may reconsider,” Hoegen said after the board’s vote.
The board approved the request from John Campas to open an ice cream stand at a property he owns at 285 Old River Road. The walk-up stand would be open 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week during May to September or October, he said. However, before he can sell ice cream he has to conform to other city codes.
The board heard and approved eight other cases, including: the construction of a 3,000-square-foot addition at St. Luke’s Villa on East Northampton Street for a single-story chapel; the addition of a 6-by-8-foot exterior cooler for Renaud LLC doing business as Vesuvio’s on North Main Street; the opening of a neighborhood grocery store in a five-unit apartment building on the corner of East Northampton and South Grant streets; and the opening of a self-service laundromat at 460 N. Main St.