UnderCover Waitress: Fraud

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


Ask the Waitress!

Received an email from a waitress working at a cocktail lounge. She claims her employer routinely pours (or tells the employees to pour) cheap liquor, such as well vodka, into expensive liquor bottles. The end result being that customer orders Grey Goose, pays for Grey Goose, and drinks well vodka.

The writer is concerned that this may be illegal. Yeah, it's illegal.

The definition of fraud is an intentional deception made for personal gain or to harm another. In this case, the fraudulent behavior serves to make the owner more money = personal gain.

Fraud is a criminal offense, and it does not matter in which state you work. You may not commit fraud.

Last December, the ABC in New Jersey shut down the Laguna Grill and Martini Bar in Brigantine for seven days during the summer -- prime money-making season. In addition, the owner, Dominic A. “Tony” Pullella, was charged a $23,000.00 fine. 

From May to September, Pullella defrauded numerous customers by allowing them to order top-shelf, expensive liquors, charging them full price for the expensive drinks, but serving them drinks made with well booze. (Well is the cheapest liquor available.) This behavior is illegal in all of the fifty states.
Naughty, naughty!
Don't do this.

It is also true that since prohibition ended in 1933, each state chose whether to control the sale and distribution of alcohol on the state level, or to leave that up to local counties. I believe that there are dry counties in the United States of America to this day. The National Alcohol Beverage Control Association has information on the different states. 

In some or all states, it is illegal to pour anything into an alcoholic beverage bottle or keg, drum, etc. Let's say there is an almost empty bottle of Kettle One vodka in your bar. Your less than efficient co-worker opened a new bottle of Kettle One. You now have two open bottles of Kettle One, and a manager who gets a bee in her or his bonnet if anything is "over stocked" in the small bar. (I am not-so-fondly remembering the bar manager at my very first bartending job; that is another story.) In an attempt to prevent screams of managerial indignation, you transfer Kettle One vodka from the almost empty bottle to the almost full bottle.

You just broke the law. (In at least some states -- not sure if this is true in all fifty.) Admittedly, you broke the letter of the law and not the spirit of the law, no pun intended. Heh.

In addition to preventing fraud, this law also attempts to prevent a rather disgusting practice of some people who serve draft beers. Pouring drafts can be messy; I imagine back in "good ole days" it was even messier. Bar owners used to have grates over collection bins on which the bartenders stood. Beer would spill through the grate and into these bins while bartenders poured the pints. Later, the bins would be emptied right back into the kegs, to be poured again. Yum.

These day, serving anything that has been dropped on the floor is generally frowned upon, and for good reason.

Thanks for Asking the Waitress!


  1. The owner of my fondue style resturant had us do the same thing. We even had 2 bottle of crown royal, one for him to sip on, and the other for paying customers.

  2. Definitely fraud, as far as I'm concerned.


Please share your thoughts.