TGI Fridays Fine for $500,000: Rubbing Alcohol and Food Coloring Served to Customers

'Operation Swill' Exposed Liqour-Swapping Scam, Cheap Booze Poured in Top-Shelf Bottles

A TGI Friday's fine will cost one operator of the chain restaurants in New Jersey $500,000, the state's attorney general said Wednesday. The raid against the restaurants was called "Operation Swill" and investigators uncovered various violations, like mixtures of rubbing alcohol and food coloring being served to customers.

The TGI Friday's fine for $500,000 was a settlement the franchises operator, the Briad Group, agreed to pay after investigators raided 29 restaurants and seized over 1,000 bottles of liquor. They found that some of the restaurants swapped cheap liquor for the expensive stuff, filled their bottles with dirty water, and even passed off rubbing alcohol and caramel food coloring as top-shelf whiskey.

"At a very fundamental level, this is a very wrong practice," Michael Halfacre, director of the New Jersey Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control," told the N.J. Press.

The state attorney general said that the serious fines- $400,000 for the violations and another $100,000 for the cost of investigating- were a way to send a message to other purveyors who may be "scamming customers."
"Briad's restaurants were scamming customers by serving them a cheap substitute for what they ordered," New Jersey Attorney General John J. Hoffman said in a statement.

"This unlawful practice took advantage of consumers who were cheated out of what they thought they were purchasing. This fine should send a clear message to every bar and restaurant throughout New Jersey that customers should get what they pay for every time without exception," he added.

Among those caught in "Operation Swill" were 13 TGI Friday's restaurants, a Ruby Tuesday and an Applebee's. All of them have agreed to a state-sponsored monitor through June of 2014. Briad Group, which is the largest operator of TGI Friday's in New Jersey, said they are looking forward to "putting this matter behind [them]."

"In addition to the settlement, we have also made the operational adjustments, initiated new training programs and redoubled our efforts to ensure that all of our restaurants adhere to Fridays' extensive bar and beverage standards," the company said. "We believe that these actions will result in even higher customer satisfaction and a strengthened level of trust."