Update: Board said they do not question that the two were drugged, but said the bar was not at fault.
Two people who traveled from Holyoke say somebody slipped something into their drinks during a pre-Halloween celebration at West End Johnnie's on Portland Street last October but was unable to take advantage of their blacked-out state because they were with friends.
A BPD detective described their experience at a hearing this morning before the Boston Licensing Board - the third such spiked-drinks hearing the board has heard over the past two months after both the board and Boston Police warned local clubs and bars to watch out for drink spiking.
Det. Karl Dugal said the couple drove across the state on Oct. 30 to a friend's home in Saugus. They had a couple of White Claws, then headed out, in costumes, to West End Johnnie's, where, between 9:35 p.m. and 10:15 p.m., they each had a couple of vodkas and Red Bulls. Around 10:15 p.m., the woman went up to the place's smaller bar, near the dance floor, and ordered a couple of green-tea shots. The drinks sat on the bar next to her - and to a tall Asian man, dressed in all black.
And then, Dugal continued, reading from his report on a phone call with the two, they lost all their memory about 10 to 15 minutes later. The woman told Dugal that her friends told her she spent the rest of the evening - they left around 12:30 a.m. - stumbling around the place and that she spent time "making out with a random male," who later friended her on Snapchat, but she has no memory of that, Dugal said. He added she was able to piece together what she could of the evening based on Snapchat and text messages and Uber receipts. The next morning, they woke up in Saugus, "they felt weird," sort of panicky and with face tingling, unlike any hangover they'd ever had, a feeling that persisted as they drove back to western Mass.
As nurses, they knew about self-applied urine drug tests and went to a local Walgreens, got one apiece - and read the results, which showed evidence of benzodiazepine and opiates, he said, adding that after seeing the results, they contacted police in Holyoke, where a detective in turn got them on a conference call with Dugal.
West End Johnnie's attorney, Seamus O'Kelly, attempted to downplay the statement, declaring it "hearsay" that would be inadmissible in court because it was third-person information relayed via Dugal, rather than from the alleged victims themselves.
Board Chairwoman Kathleen Joyce, however, stopped him, because the hearing was not part of a criminal investigation and so the board has more leeway in hearing testimony.
West End Johnnie's owner John Caron, and the manager on duty that night, Arthur Medeiros, both said nobody complained to anybody at the bar the night of the incident, that the first they heard was when police contacted them a couple days later. They said they cooperated fully with police, including spending 45 minutes going over video from surveillance cameras, which they said proved inconclusive, because the bar has an older, lower-quality system, so while they and police were able to see both the alleged victims and the alleged spiker, they could not see anything much beyond that. Caron is in the process of buying a newer system, O'Kelly said.
The board could decide at a meeting on Thursday whether West End Johnny's did anything wrong and, if so, whether any sanctions are warranted. In today's hearing, the bar was cited for "drugs used on premises."
In recent weeks, the board has also held hearings on a possible spiking at a South Boston bar and one in a Fenway bar. The board concluded there was not enough proof a woman who collapsed after leaving the South Boston bar was actually drugged there and that the Fenway bar was cited for giving out free drinks, not for allowing drinks to be drugged there.