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DV Pilot Police & Fire

State officials: ‘Operation Swill’ nails bars replacing top-shelf booze

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot File Photo

More than 100 state investigators this morning raided 29 bars and restaurants — including the Railroad Café in East Rutherford and The Brick House in Wyckoff  — seizing cheap booze that they said was being passed off as premium liquor, capping a major investigation dubbed “Operation Swill.”

The ABC struck at 11 a.m., with help from the state Division of Criminal Justice, seizing certain inventory and serving demeands notices from 29 licensed bars and restaurants throughout the state.

Of those, 13 were TGI Fridays, including one on Route 17 in Wood-Ridge and another on Route 3 in Clifton.

The move followed a year-long investigation into what New Jersey authorities said was the substitution of premium alcoholic beverage brands with “well brand spirits” — as in: bottom-shelf booze — “in an effort to fool the customer and increase their profits,” state Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa said.

Chiesa said the probe began with citizen complaints and employed not only confidential informants but “new technology used to test samples taken covertly from the licensed establishments.”

The Attorney General’s Office provided this list of accused violators:

Railroad Café, East Rutherford;
The Brick House, Wyckoff;
Sunset Tavern, Burlington;
Graziano’s Ristorante, Chesilhurst;
Villari’s Lakeside, Gloucester Township;
Yesterdays, Marmora;
Italian Affair, Glassboro;
Bell’s Tavern, Lambertville;
Brunswick Grove, East Brunswick;
Murray’s, Dover;
Sona Thirteen, Morristown;
Blackthorn Restaurant, Parsippany;
Ruby Tuesday, Bridgewater;
Café 34, Matawan;
Applebee’s, Kearny;
Cucina Calandara, Fairfield;
TGI Fridays, Hamilton;
TGI Fridays, Clifton
TGI Fridays, West Orange;
TGI Fridays, Springfield;
TGI Fridays, Old Bridge;
TGI Fridays, North Brunswick;
TGI Fridays, Piscataway;
TGI Fridays, Freehold;
TGI Fridays, Marlboro;
TGI Fridays, Hazlet;
TGI Fridays, Linden;
TGI Fridays, East Windsor;
TGI Fridays, East Hanover

EDITOR’S NOTE: The original news release emailed by state authorities today included a Wood-Ridge establishment. After the first story was published, state officials removed that business and added another, in Hamilton.

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