A TGI Fridays New Jersey operator agreed to pay a $400,000 fine for illegally swapping out expensive alcohol for cheaper drinks without the knowledge of customers, law enforcement officials announced Wednesday.
The Briad Group was fined $400,000 for the violations and $100,000 to cover investigative costs, New Jersey acting attorney general John Hoffman told The Associated Press
. Briad also agreed to hire a state-appointed monitor through June 14 to ensure its restaurants and employees were complying.
The fines were the result of an investigation called Operation Swill, the Associated Press said. Investigators raided 29 restaurants and bars, including 13 TGI Fridays, around the state in May accusing them of cheating customers. Authorities told the AP that other cases remain under investigation.
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"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," Hoffman told Hugh Morley of the Bergen Record
Zach Hosseini, spokesman for the state's Division of Alcohol Beverage Control, said the Briad case does not mean that charges against other establishments raided in Operations Swill aren't coming. He told the newspaper that 16 other established remained under scrutiny.
Briad said in a statement obtained by the the Record that it had cooperated "throughout the investigative process," and is looking forward to moving on.
"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," Briad said in the statement.
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The AP reported that under the settlement with the state, Briad agreed not to contest the charges that eight of its restaurants were selling customers cheap substitutes in place of premium alcohol.
Briad still faces a lawsuit in state court by two women who claim Briad had instituted a uniform policy to substitute cut-rate liquor for premium brands for more than a year, violating the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, reported the Associated Press. The AP said the women demanding all customers be reimbursed along with punitive damages of three times the price of each drink.
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