State officials raided 29 New Jersey bars and restaurants on Wednesday morning, all part of Operation Swill, a year-long operation that caught establishments pouring bottom-shelf liquor into top-shelf bottles and fooling customers to thinking and paying as if it’s the real deal.
The establishments allegedly aimed to “fool the customer and increase their profits,” according to a statement by the New Jersey Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control. “The customer paid for the premium brand but was instead, unbeknownst to the customer, poured the non-premium brand.”
At least one bar was caught adding food dye to rubbing alcohol and calling it “scotch.” In another bar, they filled an empty liquor bottle with dirty water and were passing it off as liquor.
The investigation began after complaints, confidential informants and new technology used to test liquor covertly purchased at the establishments by detectives.
As part of Operation Swill, investigators collected 1,000 open bottles of vodka, gin, rum, scotch, whiskey and tequila from the wells of the bars, state Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa said.
“This alleged scheme is a dishonest ruse to increase profits and is a slap in the face of the consumer,” Chiesa said.
Of those 29 bars and restaurants, 13 included TGI Fridays. TGI Fridays Inc. said it was conducting its own investigation on this issue.
“TGI Fridays was just made aware of this issue and is working closely with the franchisee and owner of the cited locations to review and investigate these serious allegations,” the statement said. “We have one of the most extensive bar and beverage programs in the industry, which sets a very high standard in the quality and service of our beverages.”
All of the TGI Fridays locations in this scam are run by the Briad Group, a Livingston-based hospitality company that is the largest TGI Fridays franchise operator in the U.S.
If the New Jersey bars and restaurants are convicted, they will face suspensions of their liquor licenses and possible revocations if there are enough violations.
The full list of bars and restaurants named by the state is:
- Applebee’s, Kearny
- Bell’s Tavern, Lambertville
- Blackthorn Restaurant, Parsippany
- The Brick House, Wyckoff
- Brunswick Grove, East Brunswick
- Café 34, Matawan
- Cucina Calandara, Fairfield
- Graziano’s Ristorante, Chesilhurst
- Italian Affair, Glassboro
- Murray’s, Dover
- Railroad Café, East Rutherford
- Ruby Tuesday, Bridgewater
- Sona Thirteen, Morristown
- Sunset Tavern, Burlington
- TGI Fridays, Clifton
- TGI Fridays, East Hanover
- TGI Fridays, East Windsor
- TGI Fridays, Freehold
- TGI Fridays, Hamilton
- TGI Fridays, Hazlet
- TGI Fridays, Linden
- TGI Fridays, Marlboro
- TGI Fridays, North Brunswick
- TGI Fridays, Old Bridge
- TGI Fridays, Piscataway
- TGI Fridays, Springfield
- TGI Fridays, West Orange
- Villari’s Lakeside, Gloucester Township
- Yesterday’s Marmora
13 TGI Fridays in New Jersey Accused of Faking Premium Liquor
More than a dozen New Jersey restaurants and bars are accused of selling cheap liquor they poured into top shelf liquor bottles. The year-long investigation known as “Operation Swill” says establishments duped customers so they could pay higher prices and make a profit.
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