A map is displayed showing findings in an investigation dubbed “Operation Swill,” in which 29 bars and restaurants in New Jersey are accused of putting cheap booze in premium brand liquor bottles and selling it, during a news conference, May 23, 2013, in Trenton, N.J. Thirteen of the restaurants cited are TGI Fridays located in central and northern New Jersey. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
by Rema Rahman
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — At one bar, a mixture that included rubbing alcohol and caramel coloring was sold as scotch. In another, premium liquor bottles were refilled with water — and apparently not even clean water at that.
State officials provided those new details Thursday on raids they conducted a day earlier as part of a yearlong investigation dubbed Operation Swill.
Twenty-nine New Jersey bars and restaurants, including 13 TGI Fridays, were accused of substituting cheap booze — or worse — for the good stuff while charging premium prices.
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.
Within seven days, the establishments must turn over records to help state authorities determine how many patrons were overcharged and by how much. They also will have to inform the state which employees were at work the days samples were covertly taken earlier this year.
State officials would not say what establishment used the rubbing alcohol or which one used dirty water, or water not from a tap. They said no health issues were reported.
TGI Fridays Inc. said it was conducting its own investigation, working with the franchisee that owns the 13 restaurants cited, The Briad Group.
Briad, based in Livingston, said it “takes great pride in the quality of food and drink” served at its TGI Fridays franchises and was troubled and surprised by the allegations. It said in an emailed statement it would take immediate steps to correct any problems it identified.