BUFFALO N.Y. (WIVB) – Buffalo’s busy Elmwood Village is still on edge Monday. Saturday night people ran for their lives as shots rang out, almost hitting a witness. Members of the local business community are investigating one business that they say is at the heart of the issue of the violent incident.
The owner of the Habibi Sheesha Hookah lounge took a storm of criticism for reportedly being the source of the patrons who were behind the gunfire. He fired back on Facebook, telling people he rented his establishment out on Saturday.
That detail, he said, means the group of people – including the shooter – wasn’t related to, or coming from, his business. He claimed in a Facebook message the business was empty.
Witnesses say that’s not the case.
Businesses near Habibi Sheesha Hookah lounge say the weekend’s shooting was the last straw in a long list of complaints they’ve had about the business.
“We’ve been here 62 years and we’ve never had an incident like this,” co-owner of Casa Di Pizza, Jim Jaccobi, said. “They’ve been here six to nine months and we’ve got a shooting?”
The owner of the hookah lounge pointed fingers towards the owners of Casa Di Pizza.
“It had nothing to do with us,” Habibi Sheesha’s owner said. “Our lounge was empty and being cleaned.”
But those who say they were present before the shooting say differently.
“It was not empty,” Jaccobi said. “I will swear up and down it was not empty. All the people that came out of there came over to here.”
An advertisement on Facebook billed the Saturday night party as “College Night” at the hookah lounge featuring three DJs playing music through 4:30 in the morning. Buffalo Common council member David Rivera says the hookah bar owner has consistently violated conditions set by the community when the business first opened, including a noise ordinance and business hours.
“We certainly didn’t have that problem before,” Rivera said. “There were problems but not to the extent we have them now. We can’t just let that pass by.”
Rivera said he talked to Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown about the problem.
“We both agree we are going to look at all the options legally available to the city in terms of possibly if we can close them down.”
Mayor Brown says the city is waiting on its legal council to advise them how to take action but Brown believes something could be done as soon as the next few days.