60ºF

Orange County bars tied to deadly shootings were used to traffic drugs, authorities say

16 arrested in Operation (Not so) Happy Place

photo

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Two now-shuttered Orange County bars where several shootings took place were used as trafficking sites by a violent drug ring, authorities said.

The Metropolitan bureau of investigation announced Friday 16 people were arrested during a joint investigation called (Not so) Happy Place with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office Gang Unit, MBI, the DEA and the FBI.

Orange County Sheriff John Mina said the drug deals were made at the Happy Place Sports Bar on Southland Boulevard and El Rinconcito Bar & Grill on East Colonial Drive. Both were operated by the same owners. Both bars are no longer in business after being evicted.

The bar operators were not among those charged in the case.

The suspects are accused of trafficking heroine and cocaine. During the operation, 38 firearms were seized, according to the MBI. The defendants are being prosecuted by the Florida Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution.

Both bars were marred by shootings in the last year.

Most recently, a man was found shot inside a car Feb. 18 outside El Rinconcito Bar.

Investigators told News 6 they legally could not shut Happy Place Sports Bar down, even after two deadly shootings in four months. The bar owners were evicted in October. Property owners said they were evicted after several late rent payments.