In the spring it was an Applebee’s near Detroit and this summer it’s a Chili’s restaurant outside of Denver. They are recent examples of how busy bartenders, names for children’s drinks too easily confused with those for adults, and staff miscommunication led to alcohol being served up to minors.
In the most recent case in Colorado, Longmont Police are referring the case to the district attorney for possible prosecution, even though the police department’s initial investigation found the incident was a mistake, not a crime.
Applebee’s and Chili’s, with menus designed for all ages, are popular choices for recession-racked Americans. Pamela Bunning, the mother of children ages 1, 6 and 8, took the three siblings to the Longmont Chili’s on July 4, ordering a “virgin” strawberry daiquiri for them to share.
It was served in cups, and the 8-year old was first to complain about it. When Bunning tasted it she said it was clear it contained “a lot of alcohol.”
The bartender told police he did not realize it was an order for a nonalcoholic daiquiri. When he responded to a “see server” note on the order, he was only told to put the drink in three cups. He thought three adults were sharing it.
Bruenning also insists she ordered a “strawberry smoothie” for the children, not a “virgin” daiquiri as police reported. Police tested the children and all three passed field sobriety tests.
In April, an Applebee’s in Madison Heights outside Detroit had a similar problem. In that incident, police discovered that a mixed alcoholic drink mislabeled as apple juice was accidentally poured into a toddler’s cup.
A test by the officers showed the beverage was .014% alcohol, according to Applebee’s.
That restaurant chain immediately changed its policy, ordering servers to pour juice for children from single serving containers at the table. It also began storing non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages in separate areas and identifiable containers.
The child victim of that mix-up was 15 months old, and when checked out by doctors was found to have a 0.10 percent blood alcohol level, over the legal limit for an adult driver.
The tot was expected to make a full recovery.