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Allentown hookah lounge shuts down in wake of fatal stabbing in June

Synergy Hookah Lounge Closed
Jason Addy
A 29-year-old Bethlehem man was fatally stabbed June 18 at Synergy Hookah Lounge on Allentown's East Side, police said. The lounge is now closed.

  • Synergy Hookah Lounge’s landlord vowed to evict the business after 29-year-old Kevin Tarafa was fatally stabbed there in June
  • Landlord “Buzzy” Labriola took the lounge’s owner to court but the case was later dismissed
  • Allentown officials are mulling stricter regulations on after-hours businesses after Tarafa’s death

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — A late-night Allentown hookah lounge where a man was fatally stabbed this summer is no longer in business.

Online listings show Synergy Hookah Lounge at 1522 Union Blvd. is permanently closed, and a “For Rent” sign could be seen Tuesday in one of the property’s windows.

Kevin Tarafa, 29, of Bethlehem, was stabbed multiple timesabout 2:55 a.m. June 18 at the hookah lounge, and he was pronounced dead almost two hours later, several hundred feet away, authorities said.

Isiah Yeager, 23, of Allentown, faces one count of homicide in connection with Tarafa’s death. Yeager is in Lehigh County Jail without bail, according to court records.

A preliminary hearing for Yeager is scheduled for Oct. 13 in Lehigh County Court.

Hookah lounge faced eviction

John “Buzzy” Labriola, who owns the building, spoke to LehighValleyNews.com outside Synergy Hookah Lounge a day after the fatal stabbing.

He said Synergy Hookah Lounge’s lease expired at the end of May, but he agreed to let the business continue in the space while searching for another location.

In the wake of the stabbing, Labriola vowed to kick the business out of his property as soon as he could.

He filed a landlord-tenant complaint June 20 against Stefhon Buchanan, who owned and operated the lounge. Buchanan was served with the complaint two days later, according to court documents.

Two hearings were scheduled — for June 29 and July 6 — but public records indicate neither was held. District Judge Michael D’Amore dismissed Labriola’s complaint against Buchanan on July 19, court records show.

It’s unclear exactly when Synergy Hookah Lounge shut down and how Labriola and Buchanan resolved their dispute; Labriola declined to speak Wednesday to LehighValleyNews.com about the complaint or the property.

But the owner of a neighboring business said Synergy Hookah Lounge hasn’t been open for at least several weeks.

Stronger penalties coming?

Allentown City Council members are weighing stricter regulations on “after-hours” businesses in the wake of the June 18 fatal stabbing at Synergy.

Council introduced a resolution June 21 that members want to maintain the “safety of our residents” and protect them from “traffic, noise, loitering, and, often, drug sales that accompany” after-hours businesses.

Members also could seek to increase the ordinance’s penalties against those businesses.

A first nuisance-abatement violation would cost businesses $2,500, which would be doubled for further violations, according to the resolution introduced in June.

The city’s current nuisance-abatement ordinance sets fines at $250 for a first violation and $500 for a second violation.

Businesses operating illegally could face a $20,000 fine or immediate closure if violence occurs there.

Officials held a news conference June 26 outside the business, where Tuerk told hookah lounge employees and owners who showed up to “cut the sh-t out” and work with the city to “find a way to succeed that doesn’t ruin the lives of everybody in this city.”

Synergy Hookah Lounge
Jason Addy
Lissette Rodriguez pauses after laying flowers Monday, June 26, outside Synergy Hookah Lounge in Allentown, where her 29-year-old son, Kevin Tarafa, was fatally stabbed June 18.

Councilwoman Candida Affa said many businesses open past 2 a.m. are “nothing but glorified speakeasies” and urged her colleagues to ban after-hours operations.

Affa also said she would “do anything and pass any legislation [city officials] want" to shut down late-night businesses operating illegally.

“We need to get rid of them, period,” she said.

“I promise you, we're going to fix this.”

Those comments forced Affa to step down from the city’s disruptive conduct and nuisance abatement boards because they showed she was not impartial.

Tuerk is set to appoint four people Wednesday night to serve on the city’s nuisance abatement board.

Rafael De La Hoz and Jeani Garcia are set to serve for one year, while Tino Babayan and Tom Burke will have two-year terms, according to the council's agenda for Wednesday.