Hookah bar gets thumbs down from Rhawnhurst Civic

Residents voted unanimously to oppose the reopening of Ali Baba Cafe and Hookah Bar, 7704 Castor Ave. and also passed a motion to not support any hookah lounges.

Dr. Farouk Marzouk, left, and zoning attorney Harry Cook speak Thursday at the Rhawnhurst Civic Association meeting about their application for a permit to operate a hookah bar at 7704 Castor Ave. JACK TOMCZUK / TIMES PHOTO

A larger-than-normal crowd of residents showed up Thursday to the Rhawnhurst Civic Association meeting to vote against an application to reopen a hookah bar on Castor Avenue.

The opposition was so overwhelming that the civic association also passed a resolution not to support any hookah establishments in the neighborhood.

Ali Baba Cafe & Hookah Bar, 7704 Castor Ave., closed after being cited by the Department of Licenses and Inspections several months ago. A special zoning permit is needed to operate the hookah lounge.

Dr. Farouk Marzouk, a vascular surgeon and Ali Baba’s owner and operator, is seeking to acquire that permit, which would allow him to open the lounge for up to 49 people for assembly and entertainment purposes.

He said Ali Baba served as a place to relax with hot and soft drinks, a quiet atmosphere and hookah. The lounge does not sell alcohol or allow customers to consume it and would be open from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m., Marzouk said.

“It’s not a rowdy bunch,” Marzouk’s attorney, Harry Cook, said at the meeting.

Residents weren’t convinced. Neighbors said they have seen young people leaving the lounge stumbling and drunk. Others said they have witnessed fighting, loud music, reckless driving and drug paraphernalia outside Ali Baba.

A man was stabbed outside the lounge in 2016, according to a 6ABC report. It’s not clear if Marzouk owned Ali Baba at the time.

Several residents also noted that a man was shot in December outside a hookah bar on Castor Avenue near Fuller Street.

Marzouk and Cook said Ali Baba is not affiliated with any other hookah lounges in the Northeast.

After a discussion, all 47 residents in attendance voted to oppose Marzouk’s application.

The Zoning Board of Adjustment is scheduled to consider Marzouk’s application at its meeting on Wednesday, April 17.

Later in the meeting, residents passed a motion 46-1 stating that the Rhawnhurst Civic Association does not want any hookah bars inside its boundaries.

In other news from the April 4 RCA meeting:

A beef and beer will be held Saturday, April 13, to raise money for a new playground that is going to be built at Resurrection of Our Lord Parish at the corner of Shelmire and Large streets.

The fundraiser will be from 6 to 11 p.m. in the parish gym and hall, and the cost is $35. Music will be provided by Paul Moore, a former member of the band Blackthorn. Tickets may be purchased by calling Resurrection School at 215-742-1127, the rectory at 215-745-3211 or Teresa Guinan at 215-704-2150 or TBGuinan@verizon.net

The 7th Police District will be holding its Police Service Area No. 1 meeting Thursday, April 11, at 7 p.m. at Pelbano Recreation Center, 8101 Bustleton Ave. Residents are invited to bring their concerns about crime and quality-of-life issues. PSA 1 covers those who live north of Rhawn Street, south of Winchester and Bloomfield avenues and west of Roosevelt Boulevard.

The next scheduled meeting of the Rhawnhurst Civic Association  will be Thursday, May 16, at 6:30 p.m. at Rhawnhurst Presbyterian Church, 7701 Loretto Ave. ••

Jack Tomczuk can be reached at jtomczuk@newspapermediagroup.com