TGI Fridays fined $500K after ‘Operation Swill’ uncovers liquor-swapping scam

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NEW JERSEY (PIX11) – A popular restaurant chain in New Jersey has to pay up for replacing top shelf alcohol with cheaper brands.

Back in May, eight TGI Fridays were raided as a part of ‘Operation Swill.’  The Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control found that the restaurants were serving premium drinks with bottom shelf alcohol.

All eight of the restaurants are owned by the Briad Group, a franchisee.

“Briad’s restaurants were scamming customers by serving them a cheap substitute for what they ordered,” said Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman. “This fine should send a clear message to every bar and restaurant throughout New Jersey that customers should get what they pay for every time without exception.”


Funnels seized that were allegedly used by bars to funnel cheap alcohol into top shelf bottles. (James Ford/PIX11 News)

The Friday’s owner has been ordered to pay $500,000 in fines.  The restaurants are also required to hire a compliance officer to monitor them through June 2014.

During Operation Swill, investigators raided 29 different bars and restaurants – including Fridays — during the year-long investigation, and lab tests revealed even more than they suspected.  One restaurant was serving “Riverwater”, which consists of close to zero percent alcohol and is essentially dirty water.  Another was a hideous concoction of rubbing alcohol and caramel.

“Drink substitution threatens the integrity of the alcoholic beverage industry, and retailers, wholesalers and customers all lose because of this illegal activity,” said ABC Director Michael Halfacre.  “The financial penalty imposed on Briad should serve as a deterrent to licensees, and we are optimistic that the corrective actions taken by Briad will prevent any further deceptive practices.”

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