New Details Emerging on NJ’s Operation Swill
Yesterday, in an investigation dubbed, “Operation Swill,” a raid was executed by more than 100 Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) and Division of Criminal Justice investigators that targeted 29 establishments that were allegedly substituting premium alcoholic beverage brands with non-premium brands also known as "well brand spirits." The year-long probe is still ongoing, but details are emerging about how it all got started.
Operation Swill focused on the 29 establishments because of information from confidential informants, consumer complaints and testing of samples conducted by both the ABC and the manufacturers of the brands. The samples were taken in January and February when ABC investigators visited 63 licensed establishments across the state and covertly took 150 samples.
The undercover ABC detectives visited these establishments and secured samples of premium brand spirits by paying for drinks ordered “neat,” which means with no ice or mixer. Some of the locations visited had previous complaints against them, and some were chosen at random.
“This alleged scheme is a dishonest ruse to increase profits, and it is a slap in the face to the consumer,” says State Attorney General Jeff Chiesa. “Consumers should have the peace of mind of knowing that they will get what they spent their hard-earned money on every single time – no exceptions.”
Penalties for serving a drink other than ordered range from a 5-day suspension for the first offense to a 15-day suspension for the third offense. If further testing proves any of the seized bottles did not contain the correct labeled alcohol, that bottle could have multiple violations based on the potential drinks that could have been poured. ABC regulations could also allow for a 30-day suspension for any illegal activity on the licensed premise and those locations could also face a 30-day suspension for not cooperating in the investigation.
The following establishments were targeted in Operation Swill:
- Railroad Café, East Rutherford
- The Brick House, Wycoff
- Sunset Tavern, Burlington
- Graziano’s Ristorante, Chesilhurst
- Villari’s Lakeside, Gloucester Township
- Yesterdays, Marmora
- TGI Fridays, West Orange
- Italian Affair, Glassboro
- Bells Tavern, Lambertville
- TGI Fridays, East Windsor
- Brunswick Grove, East Brunswick
- TGI Fridays, Old Bridge
- TGI Fridays, North Brunswick
- TGI Fridays, Piscataway
- TGI Fridays, Freehold
- TGI Fridays, Marlboro
- TGI Fridays, Hazlet
- Murray’s, Dover
- TGI Fridays, East Hanover
- Sona Thirteen, Morristown
- Blackthorn Restaurant, Parsippany
- Ruby Tuesday, Bridgewater
- TGI Fridays, Linden
- Café 34, Matawan
- Applebee’s, Kearny
- Cucina Calandara, Fairfield
- TGI Fridays, Hamilton
- TGI Fridays, Springfield
- TGI Fridays, Clifton
Thirteen of the restaurants cited are TGI Fridays located in central and northern New Jersey. In a written statement, TGI Fridays Inc. says it's working with the franchisee and owner of the restaurants (The Briad Group) to investigate the “serious” allegations.