Alcohol: Why Are Toddlers Getting Booze at Family Restaurants?

Chili's, Olive Garden, Applebees take steps to ensure kids don't get alcohol.

April 19, 2011, 1:43 AM

April 19, 2011— -- For the third time in recent weeks, another family-friendly restaurant chain has mistakenly given a young child an alcoholic beverage.

All of these tipsy toddlers are now doing just fine. But what went wrong? And how can this be prevented?

The latest incident involves 4-year-old Brooklynn Morris who wanted a chocolate shake and was allegedly served a "mudslide" shake that contains vodka and Kahlua at a Chicago area Chili's restaurant.

"I was terrified, and I was calm because I basically wanted to make sure my baby was ok," Morris' mother Tyree Davis told ABC News Chicago affiliate WLS-TV. "She was like, 'I don't like it,' and I said, 'You don't like it? Why don't you like it?' And I took a sip. Immediately I could taste the alcohol, it was so strong."

The restaurant owner, the ERJ Dining company, told WLS-TV in a statement that they "take claims such as this one seriously and we have begun a formal and thorough investigation," but dispute some of the details of the claim saying, "the drink in question was served to an adult, in glass barware, not to a child or in a kids' cup."

ERJ Dining company did not return ABC News' repeated phone calls for comment.

Sangria Instead of Juice?

At a Lakeland, Fla., Olive Garden, 2-year-old Nikolai drank tropical sangria from his sippy cup instead of orange juice in March.

Niko's mother Jill VanHeest noticed he was acting strange.

"I couldn't discipline him because he wasn't acting out, he was drunk," she said.

Olive Garden tells ABC News the situation was an "isolated event" that it's taking "very seriously." The restaurant also said it will now mix sangria individually to order rather than in batches.

Detroit Toddler Served a Margarita

When one-year old D.J. started acting a little strange at his local Applebee's near Detroit, his mother discovered his apple juice was really a margarita.

"He was saying hi and bye to the walls," D.J.'s mother Tayler Dill-Reese said. "He eventually laid his head down on the table and we thought maybe he was just sleepy."

Authorities said the incident was an accident.

"Obviously, any situation like this is unacceptable," Applebee's said previously in a written statement. "We are working with local authorities and conducting our own investigation to assess exactly what happened."

Applebees' says it will now pour apple juice to its young customers "only from single-serve containers served at the table."

The restaurant chain is also working to retrain its staff.

ABC News spoke to a bartender not connected to any of these restaurants. She said there's no excuse for what's happening.

"The only way I could see that happening is if they have unmarked containers and they're speeding or in a hurry, it's easy to grab the wrong container," said Jessica Rodrigue, a bartender in Burbank, Calif.

ABC News' Rob Nelson, Brett Hovell and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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