Operation Swill New Jersey: What Did 29 Bars and Restaurants Allegedly Do To Cheat Their Customers?
In a sting dubbed Operation Swill, New Jersey officials announced today that they believe bars across the state have been filling premium bottles of alcohol with cheaper stuff and serving that to customers. Of the 29 bars and restaurants raided across New Jersey, almost half were TGI Fridays franchises.
The Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control in New Jersey says that it has seized alcohol from these 29 establishments after a year-long investigation. Over 100 investigators raided the suspected bars and restaurants yesterday morning, seizing more than 1,000 bottles.
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"The customer paid for the premium brand, but was instead, unbeknownst to the customer, poured the non-premium brand," authorities said in press release yesterday.
"This alleged scheme is a dishonest ruse to increase profits, and it is a slap in the face to the consumer," said Attorney General Chiesa in the same press release. "Consumers should have the peace of mind of knowing that they will get what they spent their hard-earned money on every single time--no exceptions."
In the wake of the news that 13 of the 29 establishments allegedly selling cheap booze in premium bottles were TGI Fridays, the company claimed to be unaware of such activity.
"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 company 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."
Every one of the 13 TGI Fridays locations accused of disingenuously peddling the cheap booze are run by the same hospitality company, Briad Group. The company, based in Livingston, N.J., is the largest TGI Fridays franchise operator in the country.
One Patterson TGI Fridays customer, Cleveland Cunningham, wondered whether the booze swindle meant the restaurant was cheating customers in other ways too.
"If they're doing that, what else are they doing to cut corners?" said Cunningham. "If they're skimming the alcohol, what about the food?"
The investigation resulted from customer complaints and secret informants. Undercover agents were able to quickly test booze from suspected bars using a new device called the True Spirit Authenticator. The alcohol was further tested in the laboratories of the spirit manufacturers themselves, where officials discovered that of 150 samples collected, 30 were not the brand they claimed to be.
A list of the 29 bars and restaurants busted in Operation Swill follows.
Railroad Café, East Rutherford
The Brick House, Wycoff
Sunset Tavern, Burlington
Graziano's Ristorante, Chesilhurst
Villari's Lakeside, Gloucester Township
TGI Fridays, West Orange
Italian Affair, Glassboro
Bells Tavern, Lambertville
TGI Fridays, East Windsor
Brunswick Grove, East Brunswick
TGI Fridays, Old Bridge
TGI Fridays, North Brunswick
TGI Fridays, Piscataway
TGI Fridays, Freehold
TGI Fridays, Marlboro
TGI Fridays, Hazlet
TGI Fridays, East Hanover
Sona Thirteen, Morristown
Blackthorn Restaurant, Parsippany
Ruby Tuesday, Bridgewater
TGI Fridays, Linden
Café 34, Matawan
Cucina Calandara, Fairfield
TGI Fridays, Woodridge
TGI Fridays, Springfield
TGI Fridays, Clifton
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