'Operation Swill': 29 NJ Restaurants and Bars Including 13 TGI Friday's Accused of Selling Bottom-Shelf Booze in Premium Bottles

Don't try to rip off New Jersey drinkers.


New Jersey investigators raided 29 bars and restaurants accused of refilling premium liquor bottles with cheap booze, The Star-Ledger reports.

Authorities say today’s raid is the result of a year-long investigation dubbed “Operation Swill.” The state's Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control found that the suspected establishments routinely played the classic liquor bait-and-witch to rip off customers and increase profits. According to The Star-Ledger, the establishments range from cheap dives to fancy bars to chain restaurants. Texas-based chain TGI Fridays is the biggest alleged swindler on the list by far, with 13 locations listed. 

"You’re putting your money down and you come in after working and they’re cheating you on the back end, I don’t think that’s fair," Willie Allen, a TGI Friday’s patron, told The Star Ledger. "This is supposed to be a credible place. I don’t think this place is losing money."

In a statement, a company spokesperson said, "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."

Several restaurant owners and staff are insulted by the allegations, saying that they’ll check out in the end.

"I’m confident that it’ll come back and it’ll be proven we were pouring what’s on the label," said Brian Hertenstein, general manager of Blackthorn Irish Pub. "You spend two years of toil and sweat to build up an establishment, and then they make accusations like this before you can respond.”

Steven Hsieh is an editorial assistant at AlterNet and writer based in Brooklyn. Follow him on Twitter @stevenjhsieh.

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