WEST ORANGE, NJ - The New Jersey Attorney General's Division of Alcohol Beverage Control says that 29 bars and restaurants, including 13 TGI Fridays, have been switching out the liquor in premium brand bottles with inexpensive well liquor and charging customers the higher price. The West Orange Friday's, located in the Essex Green shopping plaza, was named as one of the restaurants performing the switch. The West Essex TAP
also posted additional information about the raids.
The Division of Alcohol and Beverage Control (ABC) officials seized alcohol and exercised demands for records at the 29 bars and restaurants in a year long investigation called "Operation Swill" on Wednesday, May 22.
The full statement from ABC Public Information Officer Zach Hosseini reads as follows:
"At 11 a.m., Wednesday, May 22, the New Jersey Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control, with the assistance of the Division of Criminal Justice, seized certain alcoholic beverage inventory and served demands for records from 29 licensed bars and restaurants throughout the State as part of a year-long investigation into the alleged substitution of premium alcoholic beverage brands with "well brand spirits," i.e., non-premium brands. Specifically, the ABC investigation indicates that these 29 establishments were allegedly engaging in a practice of filling premium brand bottles with non-premium brands in an effort to fool the customer and increase their profits. The customer paid for the premium brand, but was instead, unbeknownst to the customer, poured the non-premium brand.
This enforcement action, called Operation Swill, was executed by more than 100 State investigators and is the result of information provided to the ABC from citizen complaints, confidential informants, and new technology used to test samples taken covertly from the licensed establishments by Division detectives."
Over 100 state investigators were involved in the operation, which included customer complaints and confidential informants. Drink samples were also taken from the establishments in question for testing.
It is not known what violations the accused bars and restaurants will get. Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa was expected to announce the details on Thursday, May 23in a press conference in Trenton at 11:00 am.
The ABC monitors and approves liquor licenses for establishments meeting the criteria to operate. Violations of the requirements to hold that license can result in denial of the liquor license, which must be reapplied for each year. Whatever penalties the accused bars and restaurants receive from ABC would be issued against those licenses.
The full list of targeted bars and restaurants is here:
Applebee’s in Kearny
Bells Tavern in Lambertville
Blackthorn Restaurant in Parsippany
Brunswick Grove in East Brunswick
Café 34 in Matawan
Cucina Calandra in Fairfield
Graziano’s Ristorante in Chesilhurst
Italian Affair in Glassboro
Murray’s in Dover
Railroad Café in East Rutherford
Ruby Tuesday in Bridgewater
Sona Thirteen in Morristown
Sunset Tavern in Burlington
The Brick House in Wycoff
Villari’s Lakeside in Gloucester Township
Yesterdays in Marmora
The West Orange Alternative Press spoke to a manager on duty at the West Orange Friday's, who confirmed that both the restaurant and bar were open. Updates will be provided as they become available. An official spokesperson for TGI Fridays Corporate offices had no comment.