Bar fined $90,000 after stirring 'Yellow Death' chemical into a customer's drink

A Washington, D.C., bar that was accused of serving a customer a cocktail containing "Yellow Death" cleaning fluid has now been fined $90,000, DCist reported.

The alleged incident occurred last November, when Leon Williams visited Club Heaven and Hell in the city's Adams Morgan neighborhood. Williams ordered a Long Island iced tea — his favorite drink — and immediately knew something was strange.

"When I first drank it, I was like, 'Man, this ain't right,'" Williams told WTTG-TV.

That's when Williams noticed a bottle of Foam-Brite Condenser Coil Cleaner — a chemical compound sometimes referred to as "Yellow Death" — sitting behind the counter. Williams accused the bartender, who happened to be the club's owner, Mehari Woleemariam, of pouring the substance into his cocktail.

Woleemariam admitted the mistake, saying he must have accidentally grabbed the cleaner when looking for a similarly colored sour mix.

"God as my witness, we have another person up here. It was a mistake," Woleemariam told WTTG-TV. "Why should I have somebody poisoned? The customer comes to pay me and I've been in this business for the longest time in Adams Morgan."

After tasting the drink, which he said smelled like ammonia, Williams went to the hospital. There he received X-rays, a blood test and a urine test, claiming he felt a burning in his throat and chest for at least a day after the incident. 

"If it was a mistake, everybody has got to be accountable for their mistakes," Williams told WTTG-TV. "I could have been dead right now. I could be in a coma laid up somewhere. I'm just glad I didn't take more than one shot. I was drinking not knowing — just going back. I would probably be still in the hospital or dead."

Williams threatened legal action at the time, but the city's Alcohol Beverage Control Board ended up taking matters into its own hands. The board hit Club Heaven and Hell with a $90,000 fine this month, in addition to a 90-day suspension of its liquor license, which will begins on Nov. 1.

The punishment actually stems from two main violations, one being an August 2018 incident in which the club improperly outsourced security during a music event. The other was Williams and his "Yellow Death" cocktail.

In its decision, the board cited a history of misconduct at the bar.

"I'm too comfortable in pronouncing your name," Chairperson Donovan Anderson told Woleemariam last year. "That tells me that you are coming in front of me too often and I don't like that."

Local nightlife blog Barred in D.C. noted that Woleemariam's punishment is technically due to the fact that he failed to properly document the Long Island iced tea incident, rather than because of the mistake itself. 

The bar's liquor license suspension will run through Jan. 29, 2020.

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