TGI Fridays Franchisee To Pay $500,000 For Selling Cheap Booze As Top-Shelf Stuff

Back in May, New Jersey officials undertook “Operation Swill,” raiding 29 restaurants and bars in the state — including 13 TGI Fridays locations — accusing them of misleading consumers by putting less-expensive liquor in bottles for top-shelf brands. Today, the owner of those Fridays eateries agreed to settle with the state and pay a $500,000 fine.

Only eight of the 13 raided Fridays were eventually charged by the state. All of the restaurants are owned by the same company, the Briad Restaurant Group. At the time of the raids, Briad called the allegations “troubling and surprising” and stated that the swill-switcheroo was not company policy. As part of the settlement, Briad will not contest the charges.

Additionally, the company has agreed to employ a state-appointed monitor through June 30, 2014. This person will be tasked with making sure the restaurants behave themselves.

“This unlawful practice took advantage of consumers who were cheated out of what they thought they were purchasing,” acting state Attorney General John Hoffman said. “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.”

This is the first settlement resulting from Operation Swill. The NJ liquor authorities tell the Newark Star-Ledger that investigations are still ongoing with the other establishments.

We’ve reached out to a rep for Briad for comment and received the following statement in response:

Briad Restaurant Group, franchisee of Fridays restaurants in New Jersey, is pleased that a negotiated settlement has been reached with the State of New Jersey and we look forward to putting this matter behind us. Throughout the investigative process, we fully cooperated with the New Jersey ABC. We will continue to cooperate with New Jersey ABC moving forward.

In addition to the settlement, we have also made 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. We believe these actions will result in even higher customer satisfaction and a strengthened level of trust. We are committed to our ongoing mission to ensure that our customers are so pleased with their experience in our restaurants that they will come back again and again.

Steep bar tab: Owner of 8 TGI Fridays to pay $500K for selling cheap liquor as premium brands [NJ.com]