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Neighbors to discuss embattled White House Café

Officials trying to decide if pub in Wilkes-Barre can be closed under nuisance bar law.

WILKES-BARRE - Residents upset about problems they say originate at the White House Café on Hazle Avenue will have a chance to voice their concerns at tonight’s public meeting.

Questionnaires were distributed at last week’s City Council meeting and hand-delivered throughout neighborhoods on Friday, the same day a Philadelphia man was charged with the June 17 fatal shooting that occurred outside the bar.

Bridget Giunta, spokeswoman for Mayor Tom Leighton, said those who received the forms may turn them in by Friday.

The number of completed forms that have been returned is unknown because residents are submitting them at various city departments, Giunta said.

Giunta said responses and comments made at tonight’s meeting will be used in the investigation.

City police, the Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office and the state police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement are investigating the café in order to determine if the troubled tavern can be shut down under the state’s nuisance bar law.

“We’re asking residents who are affected by the White House Café (to come out) and give us their feedback,” Giunta said.

A representative of the Liquor Control Enforcement, along with city and county officials, will be at tonight’s meeting.

Giunta said the police department is compiling a list of response calls to the White House Café that will be used at a hearing before the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board to determine if the tavern’s liquor license should be renewed.

The LCB notified the owners, Lisa and Louis Ruzzi, in 2006 that it is objecting to the renewal of the tavern’s license.

Residents of the neighborhood packed council chambers at last week’s council meeting to express their fears and concerns about the White House Café. The bar has been the scene of several violent acts, including two shootings.

The latest incident happened at about 2 a.m. June 17.

Investigators allege Daquan Mitchell, 26, fired multiple shots from a .380-caliber handgun, killing Wayman Higgins, 25, and seriously injuring Tawanda Maddox, 31, both of Philadelphia. A third person, Alberto Mellon, 24, of Wilkes-Barre, was stabbed twice.

Mitchell was apprehended minutes after the shooting, and charged Friday with criminal homicide, aggravated assault and false identification to law enforcement.

A preliminary hearing is tentatively scheduled for June 29 before District Judge William Amesbury in Wilkes-Barre.

WHAT’S NEXT?

A public hearing on citizens’ complaints, comments and suggestions will be held at 6 tonight at St. Anthony’s Church, Park Avenue.

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