OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. – An ordinance was passed in Osceola County on Monday evening that is aimed to prevent crimes at hookah establishments in the early morning hours.
The new ordinance requires the businesses to be closed from 2 - 8 a.m. — a decision county leaders made following the murder of a young woman last fall.
Osceola County Commissioner and Chairman Brandon Arrington said closing during those hours should reduce the number of times officers are dispatched to a hookah lounge in the county.
“They were pretty much operating at all hours of the day, so you would be able to be at one until six in the morning, is my understanding,” Arrington said. “We hope our sheriff deputies won’t have to respond to incidents at hookah bars after 2 a.m., and they will be more available to respond to different issues throughout our county in a more appreciate and convenient time frame.”
The commission said the ordinance was drafted after Sheriff Marcos Lopez contacted the board, requesting the change following the murder of Danilee Hernandez, 23.
Investigators said there were several reports of gunfire in the parking lot of the Red Star Restaurant and Hookah Bar in Kissimmee after 5 a.m. back on October 9, 2021. Hernandez was pronounced dead at the scene, and the business has since shut down.
During a press conference last December, Sheriff Lopez said Hernandez wasn’t the intended target when she was shot and killed. The sheriff’s office also announced the arrest of seven people related to the fatal shooting.
Osceola County reports 174 calls for service to a hookah lounge between 2 - 7 a.m. in 2021 alone.
Arrington said that in the past, the concern has been people gathering at hookah establishments once bars closed.
“We were just trying to be proactive in regard to our request from the sheriff’s department, making sure we work hand-in-hand to make public safety a first priority of this commission,” Arrington said.
Arrington also said the board was not contacted by any owners of hookah establishments or people who frequent them.