NJ: Bars swapped cheap booze for premium liquor - FOX 29 News Philadelphia | WTXF-TV

NJ: Bars put cheap booze in premium liquor bottles

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AP/MYFOXNY.COM — Twenty-nine bars and restaurants, nearly half of them TGI Fridays, filled premium brand liquor bottles with lower-quality booze and sold it to patrons who thought they were buying the good stuff, authorities said Wednesday.

A yearlong investigation by the state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control, dubbed Operation Swill, found that the establishments had swapped out the good liquor in an effort to fool customers and increase profits.

Thirteen of the restaurants cited are TGI Fridays located in central and northern New Jersey.

NJ.com listed the targeted restaurants:

  • 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

The investigation, the result of citizen complaints, used confidential informants and covertly obtained samples that were tested.

State officials would not say what types of premium brand liquor got swapped out with lower-quality spirits the most. They said inventory was seized and records were sought as part of the probe.

TGI Fridays Inc. said in a statement it was working with the franchisee and owner of the TGI Fridays restaurants to investigate the allegations, which it called serious. The statement said the company had just learned of the allegations.

"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," the company said.

The TGI Fridays restaurants that were cited are owned by the Livingston-based Briad Group, which says on its website it has 70 TGI Fridays in seven states.

The Briad Group said it opened its first TGI Fridays in New Jersey in 1993. Rick Barbrick, the president and chief operating officer of the Briad Restaurant Group, issued a statement.

"As operators of 16 T.G.I. Friday's restaurants in New Jersey, The Briad Restaurant Group takes great pride in the quality of food and drink we provide our guests. That is why the allegations from the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control are especially troubling and surprising to us," Barbrick said in the statement. "We can assure our loyal and valuable guests that it is our corporate policy to treat all of our patrons honestly and fairly."

Barbrick said the company has launched its own investigation.

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