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Roofie madness: Board hears four more cases of possible drink tampering, bars take steps, some ER docs not doing toxicology scans

Update: Board rules all of the bars did what they could and should have and have taken steps to try to keep it from happening again, so no violations.

The Boston Licensing Board this week held hearings on four more possible cases involving tampered drinks given to women - one at a bar in an incident that was just a week after another possible drugging there.

The hearings, along with a series of similar hearings in recent months, follow warnings last fall by both the board and Boston Police about what seemed to be an increase in men putting drugs in the drinks of young women at local bars. The board could decide Thursday whether any of the latest incidents could have been stopped by the bars in question and, if so, whether they warrant punishment.

In the meantime, bar managers reported stepping up training for workers on how to spot possible drug use and have taken additional measures, including telling patrons to always take their drinks with them if they get up, removing drinks if patrons disregard that or putting coasters on the drinks.

The accounts below are based on testimony by police officers and bar employees and managers:

West End Johnnie's, Nov. 5

A woman who arrived with some friends went to the downstairs bar, where she had two drinks over two hours. Then the bartender gave her a free shot. Some men showed up and started dancing and buying drinks, including one for her. When a friend tried a sip, she said it tasted unusually salty.

The woman began feeling sick Around 12:40 a.m, "she stumbled outside," had to be helped to an Uber, vomited in that, did not respond to external chest rub. Was in and out of consciousness through the morning. She went to the South Bay Target and bought a home drug test kit, which indicated the presence of benzodiazapines.

The woman or a friend contacted the bar the next day, The manager immediately contacted Caron. And the bar contacted Boston Police.

Detectives arrived and watched video with the bar manager and owner John Caron, who said they couldn't spot anything that looked suspicious.

Caron said the bar was already on high alert, because of a similar incident just a week earlier - one for which the board ruled that while it sure seemed like two nurses from Holyoke were slipped something, there was nothing the bar did wrong.

"It was a busy place, we really couldn't see anything that gave us any inclination (of drink tampering)," BPD Sgt. Det. William Gallagher said.

After the second incident, Caron and the manager held an all-hands meeting with staff to urge them to be aware. "If it does happen to be one of you doing this ... you would not only lose your job, you would be prosecuted," he told them.

Sissy K's, Feb. 6

A Cambridge woman who had a few drinks at home, then went to Sissy K's on Commercial Street, where she had some more. She eturned home feeling sick and "feeling numb." She went to the Mass. General ER, where a toxicology scan showed the presence of roofies, police said. But, the woman is taking prescription Zoloft, and that can lead to false positives on tests for benzodiazepine, the bar's lawyer said.

Sissy K's was quiet that night, attorney Andrew Upton said: There were only nine people in the bar at the time, four of them staff, and video showed nothing that appeared suspicious.

Bar manager William Johnson said that as a result of warnings from police and the licensing board last fall, the bar has posted roofie warning fliers in its restrooms and that servers have been instructed to tell patrons leaving their seats to take their drinks with them. Patrons who leave their drinks unattended, he continued, will come back to find them covered with coasters - and will get free replacements if they object to that.

At night, the bar now serves drinks in plastic cups, for which patrons can request covers. During the day, the bar still uses glass cups, but patrons can request plastic ones, he said. "They've been requested quite a bit recently, and it works," he said.

Legacy Boston, Feb. 11

Four Harvard students, who had each had a drink in their Mathers House dorm, arrived at the Theater District club around 10:45 p.m., and each had a drink. Around midnight, one of the women started slurring her speech and began having trouble walking and staying alert. Two of the other students, who had sipped her drink, also started feeling ill. Around 12:30, they got in an Uber to head back to Cambridge.

Club security manager Terrence Gathers said he urged the woman to wait while he called for an ambulance, but she was conscious enough to insist "No, I want to get home" He gave her his number, so she could call him when they got back to Harvard, to let him know she was OK - he told the board he has kids the same age.

Back at Harvard, the woman was so ill, her friends called 911. An MIT ambulance took her to Mount Auburn Hospital, where an ER doctor, feeling her symptoms were "self inflicted," gave her a test that did not specifically include benzodiazapines; the results came back "inconclusive," police say.

Club owner Charles Delpidio said it was a slow night at the club, that nobody reported any problems.

Delpidio said that, in addition to ongoing training, his staff has been instructed: "If somebody puts a drink down and walk away from their drink we take their drink."

Hong Kong, Feb. 11.

Around 9 p.m., a woman arrived at the Hong Kong on Chatham Street with some friends. Around 1 a.m., they called an Uber to leave, but as they were exiting, the woman collapsed. A bouncer called 911 and an ambulance took her to Tufts, something she said she has no memory of. The ER staff didn't test her for drugs; the next day, her uncle, an EMT, gave her a test that showed the presence of opiates.

"Safety is something we take very seriously, especially with females," a manager told the board. Training material on spotting signs of possible drugging now have "asterisks with bold" around them, he said.

Woman collapses after her drink might have been spiked at a South Boston bar; the sort of thing city officials have been warning about.
Three women think they got spiked drinks, but is a Lansdowne Street bartender to blame?


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This really isn't the bar's issue. They are doing everything they can to prevent this, and in some cases alot more than I expect. (like offering a new drink)

This seems like the board is looking to point fingers at someone for this. The suspect(s) are unknown, so its not them. Its not the victims, cuz that would be victim blaming (and its not their fault at all!).. so that leaves the bar left to take the blame.

No love of bar owners.. but I dont think they should take much heat for this.

When I started going to bars at 19 (dont ask, OK).. I recalled stories from as a teen about stuff being put in ppl's drinks, and saw lots of TV that said the same thing. So to this day, I take the drink with me. People look at me strange cuz im holding the cup in my mouth while I pee at a urinal.

But hey.. no problems so far.

I just feel like this is common sense for all. take yo drink with you. Not sure the bar can do much else except warn people and have alert staff.

Voting closed 41

In cases lie this it’s more about getting everyone’s information together and try to collectively figure out what is happening, why, and how it can be stopped and/or prevented in the future.

Voting closed 27

her uncle, an EMT, gave her a test that showed the presence of opiates

That reminds me! May not be applicable here, but back in the day there was this very memorable 4/20 when my buds and I got stoned, went to the hospital and tested positive for THC, then stapled the toxicology report to a Rosie's receipt and headed to our attorney in Winter Hill to try to trump up a lawsuit suing Rosie's for selling weed brownies. The whole plan fell apart when our ringleader Jacko crashed his Yugo into a fire hydrant in Inman Square and the firemen who came running across the street handed over his backseat stash to the CPD.

Voting closed 16

I don't believe that there are that many men waiting around to put stuff in women's drinks. Sorry.

Voting closed 2

I'm not sure what you mean by "that many" (perhaps you'd like to clarify?), but why do you say it's "that many"? This is four cases since November, entirely too many, but why does that strike you as "many"? They're on three different dates, and the two that were on the same date are in the same neighborhood.

Voting closed 26

There are others beyond these that have been discussed here. One at a bar on West Broadway a few weeks ago seemed highly questionable. Young people regularly drink too much whether they know it or not. A much more likely scenario, whether you like it or not.

Voting closed 11

whether you like it or no

Not sure where that came from, but...all I was doing was pointing out that your statement...

I don't believe that there are that many men waiting around to put stuff in women's drinks. Sorry.

(why say "Sorry" when you're not?)

...doesn't make sense. First of all, you don't say what "that many" is, and second, you're discounting the possibility that one individual could be responsible for a number of incidents. And certainly SOME young people "drink too much", but in at least two of the incidents cited, the reported amount is nowhere near the amount needed to get blackout drunk. I don't think it's a smoking gun, and you can believe what you want -- I'm just pointing out that it wouldn't take "that many men".

Voting closed 14

Dude, what, so the women who have positive toxicology reports are.... drugging themselves? To create some narrative to make the city look unsafe and get bars in trouble, or something?

The lack of understanding men have about the dangers of being a woman in this world is unreal. 25% of women have experienced sexual assault. That's ONE IN FOUR. But somehow nobody knows any men who assault or believes there's any men out there who do this kind of thing, sure. There just can't be real men out there who do this. It's a goddamn ghost or something. Sure.

My mixed-sex group of friends had a dude who would do this. He would slip things into girls drinks when we would go out, and when they started feeling sick he'd get to swoop in and play the hero - getting her water, taking her home, all of that. He never actually assaulted anyone in that state - he just used it to set up a situation where he was "such a good guy" who would never take advantage, after all, he was always helping girls who "drank too much" and was a gentleman. He just got off on the secret knowledge he'd hurt people and the control of ruining their night and having them be grateful to him for fixing the damage he'd caused. It took years and an actual sexual assault to figure it out, before people finally started comparing notes, and putting together timelines and who had drank what and from who, and other creepy behaviors that hadn't been remarked on because "he's such a nice guy it must have been me misunderstanding". And even when it was clear what had been happening, other guys in the group defended the asshole, refused to believe women, and stood by him.

So fuck you and don't say sorry for upholding a narrative of victim blaming and a culture of males protecting males when you're not, at all.

Voting closed 10

It doesn't take that many people with bad intent for things like this to happen; 4 incidents could come down to 4 poisoners (which is really what someone is if they drug someone else's drink). How many thousands of people are out drinking at night, especially on the weekends? Statistically speaking, there are probably more of these types out there than we really want to contemplate...

Voting closed 8

Your coverage of the licensing board is always interesting and, in this case, super informative about incredibly serious issues cropping up at city pubs, bars and restaurants. This seems to have been going on for awhile, but you would never know it from other news outlets.

Voting closed 14

Not surprised at Mt Auburn's failures here. My experiences with them include a GI physician who suggested I start smoking, the lab losing my samples on more than one occasion, an ER doctor dropping an opened swab on the floor, then picking it up and trying to use it for wound culture, a phlebotomist resting the needle on the countertop before putting it in my arm for a blood draw, giving me a staph infection which the hospital insisted was actually because I am an IV drug user sharing needles (I have never injected drugs), and being told that several medical complaints I had were "occupational hazards of being a dishwasher" so I should consider changing careers. I am a research scientist. And I wonder how they're still allowed to operate at all.

Voting closed 14

Sounds like bars ought to make test kits available on request.

Voting closed 16

Sadly this sounds like a good idea. Maybe the city can help offset the costs (out of the police budget, hopefully). Keep a pack of them behind the bar.

Voting closed 13