Bar Fined $90K for Accidentally Adding 'Yellow Death' Chemical to a Cocktail

The bar's owner said confusing a bottle of Foam-Brite for sour mix was just an honest mistake.
October 22, 2019, 11:00am
Bar Fined $90K for Accidentally Adding 'Yellow Death' Chemical to a Cocktail
Getty Images

As everyone with a stepmother knows, even one Long Island Iced Tea has the potential to mess you up, whether it's a $1 version from Applebee's or a DIY version from your own at-home bar cart. But usually it's the combination of vodka, gin, rum and triple sec that wrecks everyone from the inside out, not the "Yellow Death" chemical that gets stirred in by mistake.

Last November, Leon Williams, ordered a L.I.T. at Club Heaven and Hell in Washington, D.C. By his own account, he's a man who knows his way around an L.I.T., so he just needed one mouthful to know that there was something wrong with what he'd been served. "When I first drank it, I was like, 'Man, this ain't right,'" he told FOX5 at the time.

It wasn't right. Williams noticed a bottle of Foam-Brite Condenser Coil Cleaner, a cleaning product for use in heating and cooling systems, behind the bar. The product is so strong that it's earned the terrifying sounding nickname 'Yellow Death,' and it's obviously not for human consumption. The bar's owner said that he's the one who poured the drink, and it was just an honest mistake that he confused the bottle of Foam-Brite with a bottle of totally non-toxic sour mix.

"God as my witness, we have another person up here. It was a mistake," Mehari Woleemariam said. "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."


The city's Alcohol Beverage Control Board didn't really want to hear excuses. According to DCist, Club Heaven and Hell was fined $90,000 and had its liquor license suspended for 90 days, because of that incident and because of an unrelated situation that involved the bar outsourcing its door security to an event promoter.

The bar's license suspension will begin on November 1 and run through January 29. (It's also worth pointing out that, as Barred in D.C. notes, the suspension wasn't because Woleemariam poured a dangerous cleaning agent into a customer's drink, but because he didn't fill out an incident report or document it in the security log.)

"If it was a mistake, everybody has got to be accountable for their mistakes," Williams said about his Long Island Coil Cleaner. "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."

Last week, a Florida woman filed a lawsuit against the Don CeSar Hotel in St. Pete Beach, Florida after a waiter allegedly topped off her water glass with liquid nitrogen. Stacey Wagers was celebrating her birthday with a friend at the hotel's restaurant, when they noticed a 'smoking' dessert that was being served at a nearby table. Her friend commented on how "cool" it looked, and the waiter poured a substance into their water glasses to give them the same effect.

Instead, after Wagers took a sip of it, she became violently ill. The waiter had allegedly given her a serving of liquid nitrogen and, as a result, she had to have her gallbladder and part of her stomach lining removed.

Between Yellow Death and the liquid nitrogen, BYOB seems like a better idea by the day. That, or just never leaving the house.