Restaurants and bars need to be held accountable

Published May 29, 2013 at 12:17 pm (Updated May 29, 2013 at 12:17 pm)

W hen we go out to eat, be it at a fast food restaurant, a family establishment or a fine dining destination, we assume that we are being served what we ordered, and that the food and drink are coming from a clean kitchen and bar. We assume that procedures and recipes are being followed, that the food is fresh and prepared in a safe, sanitary manner.

And, so long as everything tastes like it should, it’s doubtful that very many of us even give things like that a second thought. But, last week, major restaurant chain TGI Fridays came under fire because its employees were filling top shelf liquor bottles with well-quality substitutes and selling it to guests as the higher-quality, higher-priced alcohol.

The 13 TGI Fridays locations in question were all located in New Jersey, whose state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control – in Pennsylvania, it would be the Liquor Control Board – conducted a year-long investigation dubbed “Operation Swill.” Even more alarming was that the investigation revealed that another, unnamed bar in New Jersey was accused of substituting liquor with rubbing alcohol and food dye. Talk about disgusting, dangerous and alarming.

TGI Fridays corporate is, of course, taking the matter very seriously, and released the following statement: “TGI Fridays was just made aware of this issue and is working closely with the franchise and owner of the cited locations to review and investigate these serious allegations.”

When an investigation uncovers results like these, it’s hard not to wonder what other bars and restaurants are getting away with, and how many of us have consumed something that wasn’t what it appeared to be.

Locally, the Applebee’s restaurant in Peters Township was recently cited by the state police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement for allegedly operating without a valid health permit from Jan. 1 through March 27 of this year. It’s prior permit expired on Dec. 31, 2012.

This begs the question – if Applebee’s could not be bothered to renew its health permit, what else is the restaurant letting slip through the cracks?

As bars and restaurants cut corners in order to cut costs, they are forgetting one major thing. Saving a few dollars on liquor by duping the customer and a few more dollars on food costs by reusing something that should be thrown away because it is unsanitary or expired is not going to make up for the thousands of dollars in law suits when someone ends up in the hospital with food poisoning. Nor is it going to pay for the high fines that will be issued when the establishment gets caught. Health permits are issued for a reason, and organizations like the Liquor Control Board and Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement are in business to do the same – protect the vast amount of people who frequent bars and restaurants.

While we hope that our area restaurants are not the recipients of such fines, we do hope that the agencies continue to do their jobs and bring these issues and practices to light.

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