Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Hefty Fine in Liquor Sting

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Hefty Fine in Liquor Sting

Article excerpt

The agreement by a TGI Fridays franchisee to pay a $500,000 fine to settle charges that eight of its New Jersey restaurants sold low- priced liquor as premium brands means five of its other locations -- including one in Clifton -- are off the hook.

But in announcing the settlement Wednesday, state authorities said the probe dubbed "Operation Swill," stemming from May raids on 29 restaurants and bars, including two others in North Jersey, is continuing.

The Briad Restaurant Group LLC, the franchisee based in Livingston, will pay $400,000 for the violations -- $50,000 for each outlet -- and $100,000 for investigative costs accrued by the state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control. The company also agreed to employ an ABC-appointed monitor through June 30, 2014, according to the New Jersey Attorney General's Office.

"Briad's restaurants were scamming customers by serving them a cheap substitute for what they ordered," said acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman.

"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 said.

ABC spokesman Zach Hosseini said the Briad action was settled first simply because the case came together first, and investigators continue to probe the evidence against the remaining 16 bars and restaurants under scrutiny. They include The Brick House in Wyckoff and Railroad Cafe in East Rutherford, neither of which responded to a request for comment.

Briad said it was pleased to have reached a settlement, and said it had cooperated with state investigators "throughout the investigative process," and would continue to do so.

"In addition to the settlement," the company said in a statement: "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."

Hosseini acknowledged that the Briad group "came forward early and worked with us on this settlement. …

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