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A Popular Chain Restaurant Gives a Lakeland Toddler Alcohol by Accident

6:43 AM, Apr 13, 2011   |    comments
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LAKELAND, Fla - A Lakeland mother wants answers after a local chain restaurant mistakenly gave her toddler an alcoholic drink instead of orange juice.

Jill Van Heest said it happened March 31, while she was having dinner with her nearly 3-year-old son, Nikolai, and her mother at the Olive Garden along US 98 N in Lakeland.

The mother said she noticed her son was acting strangely and about a half hour after the group had been given their drinks, a waiter came and took Nikolai's drink away, saying there was a mistake. According to Van Heist, a manager then came and said her son had been given a mixed drink containing pineapple juice, orange juice, and wine.

"I guess that's my biggest frustration, is how disorganized a large restaurant, how can you be so disorganized? How could it happen? " said Van Heist. 

Nikolai had already drank most of the drink by then and he was taken to the hospital, which his mother says was a traumatic experience for both him and her. He checked out fine, but she's still not sure about any long term effects.

In a statement, a spokesperson with Olive Garden said:

We take the responsibility that comes with serving alcohol seriously. This was an extremely regrettable accident caused by the failure of an employee to follow our strict operating procedures. 

Van Heest said Olive Garden officials did contact her a day after the incident, but she hasn't heard anything from them since. She does now have a lawyer and wants the restaurant to take responsibility.

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