A bar and its owner have been fined £25,000 for serving a glass of beer line cleaner (caustic soda) instead of beer to a customer. The man suffered “exquisite pain” immediately after swallowing the liquid and was taken to hospital with severe internal injuries. He was placed in an induced coma and eventually had to have surgery to remove his oesophagus.
It was identified that a “flawed line cleaning system” led to the incident, which happened at The New Conservatory in Leeds on 19 July 2014. The court heard the man asked to taste a pale ale called “Sunbeam” and on swallowing it, began gasping and vomiting. The bartender who served it did not know the line was being cleaned at the time, as the liquid which came out of the pump was a similar colour to the beer.
An investigation revealed a new member of staff had inadvertently turned the beer badge on the pump to face customers prior to the drink being served, not realising turning it the other way indicated it was unavailable.
Passing sentence, District Judge David Kitson said: “A system that relies on a beer badge not being inadvertently turned around the other way and staff being aware potentially exposes people to risk. This was not a case of saying, ‘Oh well, if only we knew then what we know now’, because the coming together of these events were, to an extent, waiting to happen.”
The company and Mr Bird, 31, of Back York Street, Leeds, were also ordered to pay costs of almost £18,000.