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Orange County commissioners approve ‘new tool’ to crack down on illegal after-hours clubs

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Orange County Commissioners approved a change to county code Tuesday that helps deputies crack down on illegal after-hours clubs.

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Back in December, Orange County Sheriff John Mina called the clubs a hotbed for illegal activity.

He pointed to recent shootings and stabbings at after-hours clubs and asked state lawmakers for help to keep them in check.

This year, the governor signed SB 1090, which in part targets the after-hours clubs.

Read: Orange County Sheriff talks proposed legislative changes, crack down on after-hours clubs

The law makes illegally selling alcohol at any commercial establishment a third-degree felony and helps local governments further regulate the establishments.

On Tuesday, County Commissioners unanimously voted on a code change to help them regulate after-hours clubs in compliance with SB 1090.

Beginning July 1st, two alcohol sale violations in a year could mean steep fines and liens for Orange County establishments.

Violators will also be forced to appear before the county Nuisance Abatement Board.

Read: 2 men shot outside illegal after-hours nightclub in Pine Hills, deputies say

“They don’t want to be before the Nuisance Abatement Board. Just by changing this definition, it’s going to give the deputies and the sheriff’s office a tool to really bring these nuisances under control,” said Austin Moore, General Counsel with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.

Moore explained Tuesday that after-hours clubs have exploded in the last four years because they can be extremely profitable.

According to Moore, before SB 1090, illegally serving alcohol was a second-degree misdemeanor, but the bill updates the crime to a felony.

Read: Here’s how many illegal nightclubs are operating in Orange County

Violators can be arrested, and the fines have been increased, providing more of a deterrent.

In December, the sheriff explained that after-hours clubs could be difficult to shut down even if the owner was arrested. That’s because the business’s ownership can be transferred.

However, according to Moore, declaring the establishment a “Public Nuisance” gives deputies and the county more regulatory power.

The County’s Nuisance Abatement Board has several tools at its disposal to force establishments to “behave,” including shutting down if violations continue.

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