Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Say it ain't so

I-Team: Local Bars Diluting Booze To Cut Costs

It can be the most expensive part of your night on the town. In some Boston restaurants, cocktails can be $15 or more if you order top shelf brands. But, the WBZ I-Team discovered you could be drinking a lot less than you paid for.

Investigators with the Massachusetts Alcohol Beverage Control Commission hauled dozens of bottles of booze out of a popular Boston bar, possible evidence they could be ripping you off. Many of the bottles were taken because they were infested with fruit flies, but investigator Caroline Wilichoski showed us a bottle of Kettle One vodka that was of particular concern. "This particular bottle we found opened in the bar area and the fill level is higher than when it comes from the distributor," she said.

That is a concern because the state got a complaint from a former bartender that The Joshua Tree was pouring cheap liquor into top shelf bottles. "We were told to marry the cheaper stuff into more expensive stuff to help bring down the costs," said former bartender Dan Quintino.

The ABCC sent the bottle off to the Department of Public Health for testing. If the 'proof' or alcohol content doesn't match what is printed on the bottle, investigators know the alcohol has been diluted or substituted with a cheaper brand.

Dan Quintino said sometimes the tampering was obvious to him. "I remember grabbing a bottle of Petron Silver and looking at the bottle and thinking this should be clear and it's not clear, it's got a yellow tint to it," he said.

Quintino says customers never complained and managers of the bar tell the I-Team they did nothing wrong. The Joshua Tree was, however, busted for tampering with bottles and for having fruit flies in some of the liquor, but investigators couldn't prove they were swapping the cheap booze for the expensive stuff.

Investigators say these cases can be tough to prove because some cheaper brands have the same proof or alcohol content as the top shelf brands.

In some cases, there is proof. Tests results showed several bottles of Gran Marnier confiscated from the Cancun restaurant in Kingston had a lower alcohol content than was printed on the label. The I-Team asked owner Jesus Ruellas about the findings, but he refused to comment.

Investigators also discovered inconsistencies in bottles confiscated from Jonathan's in Springfield. "We believe he's substituting; the Evan Williams is going into the Jack Daniels bottle," Wilichoski said.

The investigators' suspicions were confirmed by DPH tests. Jack Daniels is supposed to be 40 percent alcohol, but tests showed the alcohol in the bottle taken from Jonathans had 43 percent. That's the same proof as the Evan Williams, a cheaper brand of whiskey taken from the bar.

Both the Cancun restaurant and Jonathans are scheduled for a hearing before the ABCC. They could have their licenses suspended or revoked.

If you see a bartender pouring from a full bottle that has a worn label -- that could be a sign the restaurant is refilling the bottles. If you suspect something, call the ABCC and report it. Investigators say a lot of their complaints come from customers who say their drink just didn't taste right.

Like I am surprised by this? Watering down a bottle of booze, is something you do after you steal from your parents hooch stash. Switching out Jack Daniels with Evan Williams is just the grown up version. People who own and run bars to make money and they will do whatever they can to make that happen. I am more annoyed that this dude ratted them out after he got shit canned. He didn't seem to have an issue with it when he was dicking people over, charging $15 bucks for a martini knowing full well it wasn't Patron Silver. Kharma's a bitch dude...im just saying.