Orange sheriff announces proposed ‘legislative changes’ after 2 arrested in hookah lounge shooting

Two men were arrested Monday in connection with a shooting at a west Orlando hookah lounge that left three injured, prompting the Orange County sheriff to announced proposed legislative changes tackling businesses illegally selling alcohol.

Deputies responded to the Washington Hookah Lounge on Old Winter Garden Road around 5:30 a.m. Sunday after reports of a shooting that injured three people, including one of the alleged shooters. Though one was initially reported to be in critical condition, all the victims were later said to have had non-life-threatening injuries, according to an Orange County Sheriff’s Office statement.

Lamarius Stewart, a 24-year-old injured in the shooting, faces charges of second-degree murder and two counts of of aggravated battery with a firearm. Anthony Mauclair, 23, was charged with aggravated assault with a firearm. Both have submitted not guilty pleas, court records indicate.

It’s not clear what led to the shooting, and arrest affidavits were not made available as of Monday afternoon. But investigators believe the business was illegally selling alcohol, which a Sheriff’s Office spokesperson said is a subject a legislative proposal by Sheriff John Mina.

As part of the proposal, called one of Mina’s “legislative priorities for this year,” it would make selling alcohol without a license a felony. Under current law, illegal alcohol sales are a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to two months in jail and a $500 fine.

Business records appear to show the hookah lounge where deputies said Sunday’s shooting took place did not have a liquor license.

“Businesses that go through the trouble of getting licenses to sell alcohol have to follow state and local laws and ordinances. If not, they run the risk of having their licenses suspended or revoked, and those are real consequences for law-abiding businesses,” an unsigned statement by an OCSO spokesperson said. “Establishments that illegally sell alcohol without a license, know that even if they are caught, they face relatively minor monetary penalties.”

The proposed changes would also amend state law to allow local authorities to punish businesses and other properties for allowing such sales by declaring them a public nuisance. Current law allows for local action against properties and businesses that are used for drug sales, criminal gang activity or are the sites of certain crimes within a certain period, including closing them down entirely.

“It’s important to add that communities across the state deal with illicit After Hour Clubs or hookah lounges that operate without liquor licenses or in violation of their license,” the spokesperson said. “These illicit operations attract criminal activity involving dangerous drugs and violent crimes.”