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Allentown council eyes crackdown on 'after-hours' clubs after killing at hookah lounge

Synergy Hookah Allentown
Jason Addy
Allentown council members on June 21 introduced a resolution that could beef up the city's enforcement of nuisance-abatement violations at "after-hours" businesses. The resolution was filed days after a fatal stabbing at Synergy Hookah Lounge on Allentown's East Side.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Days after a fatal stabbing at the Synergy Hookah Lounge on Allentown’s East Side, the council trained its sights on "after-hours" businesses.

City council members introduced a resolution Wednesday saying they want to maintain the “safety of our residents” and protect them from “traffic, noise, loitering, and, often, drug sales that accompany the clubs.”

  • Allentown City Council could consider bigger fines — and potential closure — for businesses that violate nuisance-abatement ordinances 
  • Members are acting after a 29-year-old man was fatally stabbed at Synergy Hookah Lounge
  • Isiah Yeager, 23, of Allentown, was charged with one count of criminal homicide

Council also called on Mayor Matt Tuerk and his administration to take “an active role” in enforcing the city’s nuisance-abatement ordinance.

“Political leadership needs to take a stronger stance against such violence and disorder."
Allentown City Council resolution

The resolution says almost a dozen people have been killed this year in the city, “with little administrative action” taken to address violence.

“Political leadership needs to take a stronger stance against such violence and disorder,” the council’s resolution states.

Tuerk is scheduled to host a news conference Monday outside Synergy Hookah Lounge with Police Chief Charles Roca, interim solicitor Adam Rosenthal and Vicky Kistler, who runs the city’s community and economic development department.

The Allentown DCED is responsible for enforcing the city’s nuisance-abatement ordinance.

Police were 'right outside' fatal stabbing

A 29-year-old Bethlehem man was fatally stabbed around 2:55 a.m. Sunday, June 18, at Synergy Hookah Lounge on Union Boulevard, according to Allentown police.

Kevin Tarafa was pronounced dead almost two hours later, several hundred feet away in the 1600 block of East Greenleaf Street, authorities said.

“This past weekend, we had a detail out there at Synergy the night of the homicide. Officers were right outside.”
Allentown Assistant Police Chief Michael Becker

Lehigh County Coroner Daniel Buglio ruled Tarafa’s death a homicide after an autopsy showed he suffered multiple stab wounds.

Isiah Yeager, 23, of Allentown, was charged with one count of criminal homicide. He is being held without bail, according to court records.

Allentown Assistant Police Chief Michael Becker told council members Wednesday that officers were outside Synergy Hookah Lounge when Tarafa was stabbed.

“This past weekend, we had a detail out there at Synergy the night of the homicide,” Becker said. “Officers were right outside.”

The Allentown Police Department and Roca are “looking forward to working with the council to bolster our presence and hammer this issue that we're having,” Becker said.

Increased fines, potential closure

Allentown City Council unanimously approved a measure in February to repeal and replace the city’s previous nuisance-abatement ordinance.

The resolution introduced Wednesday by the council indicates members are seeking to increase the ordinance’s penalties against “after-hours establishments.”

“I know that we should be working together, not against each other. And that’s what it’s sounding like.”
Shaun Fequiere, Secrets Hookah Lounge owner

A first nuisance-abatement violation would cost businesses $2,500, which would be doubled for further violations, the resolution states.

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

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

Council on Wednesday sent the measure to its public safety committee.

Members are set to host an informational meeting in July about Allentown’s nuisance-abatement ordinances and enforcement. The meeting has not yet been scheduled.

'We should be working together'

Council member Candida Affa said many businesses open past 2 a.m. are “nothing but glorified speakeasies,” urging her colleagues to ban “after-hours” operations.

Shaun Fequiere, owner of Secrets Hookah Lounge at 1004 E. Livingston St., urged council members Wednesday not to shut down all late-night businesses.

“I know that we should be working together, not against each other,” Fequiere said. “And that’s what it’s sounding like.”

Fequiere said he asked the council for help with enforcement in January, but he never heard from anyone with the city.

Allentown cops have twice helped security guards at the lounge in the past year, Fequiere said, emphasizing police assistance is “what I need.” The lounge’s security guards “only have so much authority,” he said.

“I didn’t open my business to create violence. I didn’t put a boxing ring in the middle of my club,” Fequiere said. “I created it for everybody to have a good time.”

Fequiere told council members he bought a metal detector for his lounge after the fatal stabbing at Synergy.

“I have to take (that) precaution because if that can happen there, my place is no different,” Fequiere told LehighValleyNews.com. He said he was “hurt” when he heard about Tarafa’s death.

Synergy facing eviction

A day after the deadly stabbing at Synergy Hookah Lounge, property owner John “Buzzy” Labriola told LehighValleyNews.com he would try to evict the business from his building.

He said the lounge’s lease expired at the end of May, but he agreed to let it stay in the Union Boulevard location until July 2 while searching for a new space.

Court documents show Labriola filed a landlord-tenant complaint Tuesday in district court against Stefhon Buchanan, who owns and operates Synergy.

A hearing on the complaint is scheduled for Thursday, June 29, before District Judge Michael D’Amore.