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May 22, 2013 12:05 PM

N.J. raids 29 restaurants in liquor scam probe

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

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  1. Wow, so did TGIF have a franchise wide meeting on how to rip off their customers? (seriously asking this since there are so many of them.) I doubt that many general managers went rogue and did this themselves.

    They need to do a sting operation on fish used in sashimi and sushi. I know they did one not long ago but a large scale NJ one should be done.

    7 Replies
    1. re: corvette johnny

      I would be more apt to believe the individual managers did go rogue on their own, rather than as a company directive. I'm sure that Company officials at TGIF know the liquor laws in every state they have locations in.....and they all have the same statutes against marrying bottles or switching and the consequences for doing so.

      As for the reason why I believe it was done more so on location level....the individual locations sales have much to do with how the management team is paid out through *TCI*, or *Total Controllable Income*, so it suggests to me their pay scale was such, the managers within the stores tried to make up grounds on Liquor Costs to increase the profitability on total sales after costs.

      I would change my position if all the TGIF stores were owned by one franchisee under one umbrella.

      1. re: fourunder

        Well, its not like the managers could talk to each other or anything like that..

          1. re: coldsolderjoint

            If you look at the list above, Applebee's has only one location listed....the Kearny location, but Doherty Enterprises owns most, if not all locations in New Jersey. The same can be said for the Ruby Tuesday as having only one it suggests there was no Parent Company directive to deceive and steal from their customers.

            As managers speaking to each the case of TGIF, each individual location has a management team in place probably consisting of the following

            General Manager
            Front House Manager
            Kitchen Manager
            Bar Manager
            Assistant Managers/Trainee

            Each individual location would have daily and weekly meeting within house and with ownership.

            Extended, each manager would have regional meetings encompassing new parent company operations for performance, new menu roll-outs and policies.

            It is also common for managers to transfer within the system and for each to appear at the request of other locations to secret shop their stores.....managers that switch stores on a frequent basis are also more likely to share living arrangements with other managers as well, sharing leases or taking them over from other who move there is always a chance for interaction and communication between managers.

            1. re: fourunder

              I never said that there was any formal communication from the top down. I've worked at places in the food industry that were franchised owned and tend to be generally low paid positions, and people do rotate through like you said. People become friends and stay in touch even though they work at different stores. One manager finds out they can increase their pay by mixing bottles, its not long before everyone knows about it. Work at any place long enough not even in the food industry and you know where the holes in the system are.

          2. re: fourunder

            Apparently, it is one franchisee.

            TGI Fridays issued a statement Wednesday afternoon.

            “TGI Fridays was just made aware of this issue and is working closely with the franchisee and owner of the cited locations to review and investigate these serious allegations,” the company said. “We have one of the most extensive bar and beverage programs in the industry, which sets a very high standard in the quality and service of our beverages.”

            1. re: ebchower

              The guys in the big office were asleep at the wheel. They can't keep getting the benefits of a franchising arrangement without keeping close tabs on franchisees' activities. It's not just about making sure that the napkins display the company's logo.

        1. Getting my resume together, looks like there is going to be a regional GM job available at Friday's!!!

          1. Wow, we used to go to the Cafe 34, it's about 3 minutes from where I live. That would explain why my drinks always tasted lousy. Been to most of those TGIFs & the Brunswick Grove too.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Jerzeegirl

              Very disappointed in the Brunswick Grove. While their guilt must be proven, from the sounds of the article I read, the 29 places charged were out of more than 60 that were visited, and various tests of the drinks were performed, so this is more than just an accusation by a customer.

              Actually went there on Tuesday night after a lull of 3 or 4 months. My daughters usually get the wings, which while tasty have always been about the smallest wings I have ever seen. Sure, they are cheap on Tuesdays, but very small. Tuesdays included a couple that were even small by the Grove's standards, literally less than an inch long.

              I will not re visit until these charges are resolved. If guilty, never again until the current owner sells to someone reputable and drives off into the sunset in his bmw, which we will have found was paid for via his improper actions.

            2. Those are mostly bottom-end restaurants, so I wouldn't think they'd even be pretending to offer premium brands.

              2 Replies
              1. re: drongo

                I can't speak for all of them - but Bell's Tavern in Lambertville isn't. Or at least, that's not how they present themselves. I used to like that place in the distant past - but after our last experience there, this news doesn't surprise me at all.

                1. re: drongo

                  The Brick House in Wyckoff is not bottom-end at all.

                2. God Bless our governments, large and small! NOT.

                  38 Replies
                  1. re: RedTop

                    ...huh??? Are you saying that the state liquor authority has done a bad thing here by calling out the scammers???? If so, you have it backwards.

                    If I've misunderstood you, then sorry...never mind. :-)

                    The food at TGIF is certainly not any bargain... I'm not very surprised that they're pulling a cheat on the booze.

                    1. re: The Professor

                      Yeah, I didn't really get that either. I mean, isn't the fundamental, agreed upon, purpose of all governments to help benefit and protect the people? Perhaps, we should just abandon all law enforcement? Maybe, just simply arm everyone so that when I think the bartender serves me Cuervo when I ask for Herradura, I simply shoot him in the foot?

                      I'm just glad I now have another reason not to go to a TGIF. (As if I needed another . . . .)

                    2. re: RedTop

                      I guess I would expect anyone ordering a top shelf spirit in any restaurant, be able to tell the difference in taste between their called drink; and something delivered from a rail liquor.

                      If I can't tell the difference between Woodford Reserve and Evan Williams, or, A Bombay Gin Martini v. a Heaven Hill Gin Martini, I don't belong out in public.

                      1. re: RedTop

                        I'm with you. I can more often than not immediately taste the difference. I'm just curious though, how do you deal with the bein' ripped off part? Alert the authorities? Say, "Fuck 'em" to those who might not notice? Beat the shit outta the bartender?

                        1. re: MGZ

                          Vote with your wallet. The old saw that goes: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

                          1. re: RedTop

                            Don't you think that we have some responsibility to help others who may be more ignorant or less refined? I can be a real elitest bastard sometimes, but if someplace is screwing customers, shouldn't I say something? I can't torch the place, but maybe I could at least say sometin' on this Site, no? Maybe help someone out? Maybe call attention to the problem?

                            I'm comin' at this as someone who's pretty existentialist and libertarian, but I can't run my business and also look out for people speeding through red lights.

                            1. re: MGZ

                              Doesn't word of mouth effectively elevate? Or, crush?

                              1. re: RedTop

                                Well, you can tell your neighbor that you saw the the guy across the street draggin' a little boy into his house, but I'm thinkin' it's better to call the cops.

                                1. re: MGZ

                                  I think comparing retail fraud with kidnapping is a bit of a stretch. Just sayin...

                                  1. re: RedTop

                                    Law enforcement is law enforcement. I mean, a crime's a crime, no? Government agencies exist to enforce the laws that we have agreed to accept as a society. Is the FBI investigating a bombing that much different than the EPA investigating a power plant dumping waste into a river?

                                    Call it a stretch is you want. Fine. It was an example, but, at bottom, are you really suggestin' that retail fraud doesn't hurt the public?

                                    1. re: MGZ

                                      >>Call it a stretch is you want. Fine. It was an example, but, at bottom, are you really suggestin' that retail fraud doesn't hurt the public?<<

                                      No. I'm not suggesting that at all. I'm sure that fraud and theft committed against retailers in the US amounts to billions of dollars in loss each year. Thats only one of the reasons why our society is overburdened with laws and lawyers.

                                      But the example originally cited here, and in various other news reports I've read today, implies that a governmental entity is protecting a consumer base that is too stoopid to realize they are being bilked. I choose not to believe that. I think the market place can better, and more effectively police this type of "crime" than throwing it in the lap of government authority.

                                      1. re: RedTop

                                        Well, my friend, though I may completely disagree with you, I respect your opinions.

                                        1. re: RedTop

                                          RedTop, as I noted, I respect your thoughts and opinions. The dialectic process is what makes the Site exciting. Nonetheless, I, finally, gotta ask, what's you tis to Jersey?

                                          1. re: MGZ

                                            That shoulda been "what's your tie to Jersey". Damn tequila . . . .

                                            1. re: MGZ

                                              That's what happens when you tie one on.

                                            2. re: MGZ

                                              Respect to you from here.

                                              No Jersey tie whatsoever.

                                        2. re: RedTop

                                          Was reported this afternoon that one establishment had mixed rubbing alcohol with caramel food coloring and served it as scotch. I would certainly equate poisoning with kidnapping...

                                            1. re: equal_Mark

                                              Yes, indeed.

                                              "At one bar, a mixture that included rubbing alcohol and caramel coloring was sold as scotch. In another, premium liquor bottles were refilled with water — and apparently not even clean water at that."

                                              "Operation Swill" they call it ... heh.

                                              1. re: drongo

                                                All 13 TGIF's are the same ownership? This one is starting to look, walk, and quack like a duck.

                                                  1. re: MarlboroMan

                                                    Those bloody yanks drink piss beer anyway!

                                                    1. re: MarlboroMan

                                                      The report of rubbing alcohol being served seems to have mutated from it being ascribed to one establishment in the original press release to include all of the bars involved according to the Daily Mail. I would have expected a couple dozen libel lawsuits if this rag had been published in the US...

                                                1. re: equal_Mark

                                                  I think I'd question the veracity of that report and not take it at face value.

                                                  1. re: RedTop

                                                    The report of rubbing alcohol came straight from the Attorney General's press conference. They stopped short of saying which bar did it.

                                                    1. re: ebchower

                                                      "State officials would not say what establishment used the rubbing alcohol or which one used dirty water, or water not from a tap. They said no health issues were reported."

                                                      --from the ABC News report

                                                      Pure hokum! Were this true, the establishment would have been identified, it would have been closed down immediately, and ownership would be speaking with police with their lawyers present.

                                                      1. re: RedTop

                                                        That's a good point Red Top. I just called the ABC and asked if they were making claims about rubbing alcohol, why weren't they identified and shut down? The woman said it was a great question, and put me on hold so she could ask "Don." I eventually got transferred to somebody's voice mail. I hung up as I had to take a call here at work. 866 713 8392 if you want to try.

                                                        1. re: RedTop

                                                          RedTop, so you know, NJ has some really weird alcohol laws. Liquor licenses in my town have sold for in excess of a million dollars. More than the cost of the real estate that came along with it. There are several of us on this board who have dealt with the legal proceedings related to the nonsense. I assure you, it's not "hukum".

                                                          1. re: MGZ

                                                            Don't get me started about the ABC.

                                                            1. re: MGZ

                                                              MGZ, I don't know what more has transpired with this "investigation", but I do think that the New Jersey LCC has put itself in a very awkward position by making an unattributed accusation about finding rubbing alcohol in one of their samples.

                                                              Not a lawyer, but I think the LCC has raised the stakes by escalating this from a misdemenor investigation, (inn keeper fraud) to a felony (criminal endangerment). And by not clearly identifying the offending business, the LCC has implicated all 29 businesses as the potential culprit.

                                                              This is not a good thing.

                                                              1. re: RedTop

                                                                Well, RedTop, I may not agree with you about the scope of government and when its exercise of power is right or wrong. Moreover, I am a lawyer and have appeared in many courts in many States. Where we have absolutely no dispute, however, is the fact that, in more than one way, "[t]his is not a good thing." But, it's New Jersey . . . we're not like other places in so many fucked up ways.

                                                                Weird thing is, I haven't had a Scotch in a coupla years and somehow now I want one. Though, I think I'll but my own bottle.

                                                                1. re: MGZ

                                                                  >>Weird thing is, I haven't had a Scotch in a coupla years and somehow now I want one. Though, I think I'll but my own bottle.<<

                                                                  Blend? Or Single Malt?


                                                                  1. re: RedTop

                                                                    Given what's goin' on here in my lovely Garden State as the Summer begins, especially, since I live in one of the towns at the Shore devastated by that bitch, Sandy, I'm goin' all in. Gonna walk up the street and buy myself a bottle of Laphroaig. I'll have a glass for you, for, in some odd way, makin' me think of it.

                                                                    Shit, Cheers to all of ya! My beach is clean and open. My dopey little town is gettin' better. The Ocean's gettin' warmer. And, I'm just gonna stay home and barbecue tomorrow. (Oh, and, shhh, I'm puttin' the Scotch on jrv's tab!)

                                                                      1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                        Thanks, I will, my friend.

                                                                        My mutton leg barbecue plan fell through, so I've gotta settle for the Scotch you bought me, a two inch ribeye, baked potato, a salad from the first of the lettuce leaves I grew, and the Phillies-Nationals game. Hell, I may even sit on the front porch for a while and raise a glass when the tourists stream by . . .

                                                                        1. re: MGZ

                                                                          Well if you care to come up, I'll be droppin' a coupla dollars on some ponies. Between races I'll take a walk over to the food trucks.

                                                                          1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                            I forgot about the food truck thing and I do love Monmouth Park.* Thanks for the offer, but my ass isn't movin' anywhere today - except maybe to go inside and take a nap.

                                                                            You shoulda bet me on that cold, dark October 30th morning that the beaches would have people on 'em for Memorial Day. There's no way I coulda believed it. You'd probably own my house right now.

                                                                            *When I was still in RBC, some of the girls would work spring/summers at the bar outside. First, they would serve you without questions - nice enough on it's own..

                                                                            Second, they would listen in on what the big money makers were betting on and share what they heard. We'd scrounge up thirty-forty bucks and sit out back. Terry would tip us off and bring by a coupla G&T's. That night most of the Senior class would be drinking for free. Usually, I still had enough money left over for gas for the week (oh, and garbage bags).