Details of 'Operation Swill' Emerge, Make Us Wary of Drinking Ever Again

Staff Writer
New details of the bars and restaurants swapping out premium alcohol make us want to gag

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

Is that really Jack Daniel's? TGI Friday's was one of the most cited restaurants and bars in "Operation Swill."

This week, 29 restaurants and bars in New Jersey were raided after a yearlong investigation called Operation Swill. The investigation revealed that the bars and restaurants (including 13 TGI Fridays) were subbing out premium liquor brands for, well, swill — and according to new details, a whole lot of gross things. 

The Associated Press' report makes us never want to drink out again; among the liquids being sold as premium spirits? Rubbing alcohol with caramel coloring instead of Scotch, water, and well, dirty water. The New Jersey Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control seized more than 1,000 bottles from the restaurants for further testing, but we're sure we won't like what we see. "What these 29 establishments have allegedly done threatens the integrity of the alcoholic beverage industry as a whole," state Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa said in a statement Thursday. "This alleged scheme is a dishonest ruse to increase profits, and it is a slap in the face of the consumer. The consumer should have the peace of mind to know that when they pay for something, they get exactly what they paid for, no exceptions."

The restaurant most in question, TGI Fridays, released a statement calling the accusations "very disturbing." "We have zero tolerance for actions that undermine the trust of our guests and call into question the reputation we have built up over the past 48 years," read the statement. 

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So just how scared should we be? Is this happening in bars and restaurants everywhere? In the opinion of Slate writer Justin Peters... yes. "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," he writes. Fortunately, he's got a very good handbook for sniffing out the swill from the top shelf.