TGI Friday's Fined $500K In NJ Liquor Sting After 'Operation Swill' Finds Cheap Booze In Expensive Bottles
The nation's largest franchise of TGI Friday's, fined $500,000 by the State of New Jersey for passing off cheap booze as expensive stuff as part of a bust called Operation Swill, will not contest the charges.
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Thirteen Central New Jersey TGI Friday's run by The Briad Group were raided as part of Operation Swill, a sting that began in January. Investigators found that eight of these locations were selling inexpensive liquor out of more expensive bottles. In at least one location out of the total of 29 businesses that were raided statewide, a mixture of rubbing alcohol and caramel coloring was sold as scotch. (It wasn't specified whether this took place at one of the Briad locations or that of another operator.)
"At a very fundamental level, this is a very wrong practice," said Michael Halfacre, director of the New Jersey Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said the TGI Friday's fine "should send a clear message to every bar and restaurant throughout New Jersey."
"Briad's restaurants were scamming customers by serving them a cheap substitute for what they ordered," Hoffman said. "This unlawful practice took advantage of consumers who were cheated out of what they thought they were purchasing."
Briad won't contest the charges and will employ a state-appointed monitor through June 14, 2014, to ensure compliance. If there are any violations during that period, the TGI Friday's who run afoul of the rules will lose their liquor licenses for five days.
In a statement, Briad said they cooperated fully with investigators as part of Operation Swill, and that they'd put in place new training programs and "redoubled our efforts to ensure that all of our restaurants adhere to Friday's' extensive bar and beverage standards."
The eight TGI Friday's fined as part of Operation Swill are located in West Orange, East Windsor, Old Bridge, Piscataway, Freehold, Marlboro, Hazlet and Linden.
Briad is also being sued by two women, Kristie Pasieka and Nicole E. Ruglio, both from Cream Ridge, N.J., who on several occasions noticed their drinks at the Hamilton, N.J., TGI Friday's tasted odd. After hearing about Operation Swill, the women thought they had been conned, in violation of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act.
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