National Chains Slipping Booze Into Sippy Cups?

By Jeff Forester 04/22/11

Two national chain restaurants are managing the fall-out after employees accidentally served toddlers the hard stuff.

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Booze instead of apple juice at Applebees.
Photo via blippitt

On March 31, Jill Vanheest's two-year-old son, Nikolai, was dosed with sangria at an Olive Garden in Lakeland, Florida, CNN reported. Vanheest told HLN's Jane Velez-Mitchell: "They poisoned my child right in front of me." After he began drinking what she thought was orange juice, Vanheest noticed her son acting strangely, climbing in and out of his chair and onto people's laps and "getting louder and louder." Eventually the waiter "came over and said there's been a mistake, grabbed the cup and kind of scurried away," Vanheest told Velez-Mitchell.  At the hospital doctors drew blood from the struggling Nikolai and administered intravenous fluids before releasing him. “He ended up with a lot of bruises,” Vanheest said. She is undecided if she will file a lawsuit against Olive Garden.

In a separate incident, on April 8th, a server at an Applebee's in Madison Heights, Michigan served margarita mix containing tequila and triple sec to 15-month-old Dominic Wilson, Jr. Staff inadvertently switched the margarita mix container with the apple juice jug. Police were called to the scene after Dominic’s mother, Taylor Dill-Reese, became concerned when Dominic started acting strangely, "saying 'hi' and 'bye' to the walls.” They rushed Dominic to the hospital where his mother claims he was found to have a blood-alcohol level of .10. Applebee's issued a statement apologizing to Dominic’s parents. "We recognize our responsibility to constantly access our safety policies and procedures." A spokesperson for the Kansas-based chain also noted that Madison Heights police conducted a field test of the beverage but claims they found that it registered only a .014 alcohol content.

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Jeff Forester is a writer in Minnesota. His book, Forest for the Trees: How Humans Shaped the North Woods, an ecological history of his state's famed Boundary Waters, came out in paperback in 2009. Jeff is the Executive Director of MN Lakes and Rivers Advocates MLR and you can follow him on Twitter.