Jerseyans have to put up with a lot: TV shows that portray them as orange, loudmouthed simpletons. New Yorkers just across the Hudson River disdaining them as “bridge and tunnel” people, storms like Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy flooding out their marshes and ravaging their beloved shore.
But restaurant chains like TGI Friday’s
) charging them premium prices for plastic-bottle liquor? Not for nothin’, but that’s a step too far.
New Jersey Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control and the Division of Criminal Justice, in a joint investigation given the Jersey-blunt moniker “Operation Swill,” spent a year looking into whether bars were substituting premium liquor brands with more generic spirits for their drinks to hike profits. According to New Jersey’s News 12
, 29 restaurants and bars — including 13 TGI Friday’s locations — had their liquor inventory seized as a result.
The TGI Friday’s restaurants that were cited are owned by Briad Group in Livingston, N.J., whose website says it owns 70 TGI Friday’s outlets in seven states. That group deflected questions from The Associated Press
to TGI Friday’s Inc. That company then issued a statement saying it was working with the franchisee and owner of the TGI Friday’s restaurants to investigate the “serious” allegations the company said it only recently learned about.
While independent bars and restaurants were also cited, TGI Friday’s wasn’t the only chain with implicated New Jersey locations. According to a list
obtained by News 12, an Applebee’s location in Kearny and a Ruby Tuesday
) in Bridgewater also had their liquor seized for swapping out the good stuff with budget booze.
Authorities didn’t go label by label indicating which brands were substituted, but they noted that customers at the offending restaurants paid for “top-shelf” liquor and got generics in their glasses.
So how does an investigation like this even come about? Because New Jersey barflies know their liquor. Authorities said numerous complaints from customers with discriminating palates forced their hand.
Meanwhile, the more than 100 investigators assigned to the operation, with help from covert informants, secretly took samples from every targeted bar and restaurant and had them tested — presumably not a shot at a time.