Tags: rubbing | alcohol | scotch | dirty | water

Rubbing Alcohol as Scotch, Dirty Water Served in NJ Bars, Says Report

Image: Rubbing Alcohol as Scotch, Dirty Water Served in NJ Bars, Says Report Funnels confiscated during an investigation dubbed "Operation Swill," in which 29 bars and restaurants in New Jersey are accused of putting cheap booze in premium brand liquor bottles and selling it, are displayed during a news conference on May 23 in Trenton, N.J.

Friday, 24 May 2013 12:54 PM

By Clyde Hughes

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New Jersey’s Operation Swill investigation, which claims that bars replaced premium liquor with cheap booze, got even more damning for bartenders and owners. Officials revealed Friday that some bars replaced scotch with rubbing alcohol and gave dirty water to customers.

Investigators said one establishment used rubbing alcohol with caramel coloring and sold it as scotch. Another bar refilled premium liquor bottles with dirty water -- water that was not from the tap. State officials did not identify the establishments they allegedly caught.

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Earlier this week, officials revealed 29 New Jersey bars and restaurants, including 13 TGI Fridays, that reportedly substituted cheap booze for the real stuff and charged premium prices.

As part of Operation Swill, investigators collected 1,000 open bottles of vodka, gin, rum, scotch, whiskey, and tequila from the wells of the bars, state Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa said.

“This alleged scheme is a dishonest ruse to increase profits and is a slap in the face of the consumer,” Chiesa said.

Blackthorn Irish Pub in Parsippany is one of the establishments officials raided and claimed bartenders replaced liquor. Brian Hertenstein, the eatery's general manager, denies the charges and believes they will be vindicated.

“It’s not true, and there were never any complaints from patrons,” Hertenstein told the Star-Ledeger. “I’m confident that it’ll come back and it’ll be proven we were pouring what’s on the label.”

Dan Arroyo, a manager at the pub, said three men and one woman arrived Wednesday morning, inspecting bottles and opening up liquor cabinets.

The officials told him they were sweeping restaurants in the area and that the Blackthorn wasn’t targeted.

“They said it was random,” Arroyo said.

Hertenstein, who has managed the Blackthorn for two years, said he didn’t know about the allegations until he read a news account.

“You spend two years of toil and sweat to build up an establishment, and then they make accusations like this before you can respond,” he said.

The investigation's findings shocked drink enthusiats like Justin Peters, a crime blogger for Slate.com.

“As an enthusiastic and frequent liquor drinker, this news struck fear into my pickled heart,” Peters said. “When I order a drink, I want to know that I'm being served drinking alcohol, not rubbing alcohol. If the bait-and-switch is happening in New Jersey, it’s happening elsewhere, too, quite possibly in the low joints where I spend an alarming amount of my time.”

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