SafeProof.org receives tips from around the world concerning the sale of fake, adulterated and counterfeit alcohol. The most prevalent liquor violation tips that are received in the United States concerns refilling liquor bottles. Number two on the list of reported violations relates to switching labels as well as mis-representing brands. The third most prevalent liquor law violation that is reported relates to watering down liquor. Most of these tips come from employees of the establishments that are violating the laws. As they are employees and fear the repercussions of losing their job, they choose to remain anonymous. SafeProof.org reports all tips received to the governing enforcement authority and brand named in the tip for further investigation.

On July 26, 2018, the SafeProof.org Tip line received a Tip from James Bullock concerning illegal liquor sales activity that he witnessed while working as a bartender at a restaurant in Queens, NY. Mr. Bullock’s original tip shows his honesty and concern for the customer.

I had to witness my manager take the Tito’s Vodka bottle out the trash after I told him we were out and watch as he snuck it to the back to refill it with something. Then bring it back to be sold. This isn’t right. I also regret that seeing as though it was my second shift I cooperated, but I feel guilty and disappointed.

I feel if they can do this there’s so much more that could happen in the future. Please reach back out in hopes of protecting future customers. When I took it to a higher head they decided to leave the bottle on the shelf.

This detailed tip was sent to the New York State Liquor Authority for further action. To allow time for an investigation, SafeProof.org did not immediately publicize the Tip from Mr. Bullock.

The integrity of James Bullock is to be commended, he was not only willing to send in this tip, he was also willing to conduct an interview with SafeProof.org.

During the interview, SafeProof.org discovered that the Italian Restaurant was consistently violating another New York State Liquor Law by not purchasing their liquor from an authorized distributor. As per the Three Tier System implemented with the repeal of Prohibition, retailers of liquor are required to make their liquor purchases from a licensed authorized liquor distributor who records the purchases.

On September 19, 2018, James Bullock sat down to do a phone interview with this writer for Safeproof.org to discuss his tip. James continued to work at the restaurant for a few weeks after the reported incident. He is now employed at an establishment that follows liquor laws.

Throughout the interview James was honest and candid about the incident, it was clear that it offended his honesty and integrity.

James Bullock
James Bullock reported the liquor violation to SafeProof.org

It was while working at his second shift as a bartender for this upscale Italian Restaurant that James emptied the Tito’s Vodka bottle, threw it in the trash and informed his manager that they were out of Tito’s. His manager asked him where he disposed of the bottle.

James told us,he (Manager), Oh which trash can did you throw the bottle in? I told him the second one to the right. He went over there very discreetly and reached his hand in the garbage can, he was about elbow deep at this point. He grabs the Tito’s Bottle, walks by me. He comes back, the bottle wasn’t empty anymore, there was something in the bottle. I didn’t know what it was. At this point I am in a dilemma as this is my first bartender job, do I rock with this or do I say something. I know, I went to training where they tell you certain things about properly serving customers.

James continues to question the contents of the bottle asking the Manager, “Can you at least tell me what’s in the bottle so that I can gauge the drinks I am serving.” The Manager’s reply was to just serve it like it is Tito’s. James said his first thought was that at least he could tell him what is in the bottle, how was he to gauge the proof and strength of the drinks he would serve from this refilled Tito’s bottle.

Not long after the refilled Tito’s Vodka bottle is placed back on the shelf, a woman customer who had already had three drinks from the original Tito’s bottle, orders another. James knowing that the bottle does not contain Tito’s Handmade Vodka anymore begins to worry. As per the manager’s orders he serves it like it is Tito’s. The woman does not notice but as James told us in this interview, “I don’t think that’s up to me to decide to serve a drink other than what the customer ordered.”

For the rest of the shift James worries and is hesitant to serve drinks from the refilled Tito’s Bottle, while going over in his mind how he could correct the situation. He did not want to quit on his second shift as a bartender, but he did not want to be a bartender that deceived customers. He decided he would bring the situation to the attention of an owner the next day.

On his third shift as bartender at the Long Island City, NY restaurant, James finds himself behind the bar with a managing partner. James brought up the subject of the refilled Tito’s bottle, to which he received no reaction. “She just looked at the bottle, took it off the shelf, turned it around a couple of times in her hands and placed it back on the shelf without saying anything to me. I continued making drinks but was already planning on finding another job.”

We asked James if the Restaurant in question charged a premium for Tito’s, “no, the pricing was basically the same, no matter the brand used. The average price for a drink was $13-$15.”

When we asked James when the next liquor delivery would be, he told us, “I never saw a liquor delivery. They would go to a liquor store and buy the bottles.”

A retail establishment selling liquor by law is required to purchase their liquor from an approved, licensed liquor distributor in the State of New York, and in every other State.

A #Bartender at a Restaurant in #NewYork reported that management was refilling #Titos #Vodka bottle with unknown liquor. Continue to report violations to #SafeProof Click to Tweet

Bartenders who witness liquor bottle refilling often send tips into SafeProof.org anonymously. They are conflicted between doing the right thing and losing their jobs. James Bullock, as a new bartender with a conscious felt that it was important to send this tip into SafeProof.org. He had decided to look for a new job after the incident fearing that this and other practices at this Italian Restaurant would continue to affect his conscious. As he told us,

“I didn’t want to be a bartender to cheat customers. I enjoyed serving and interacting with customers. How could I carry on a friendly conversation with someone, when I knew I wasn’t serving them what they ordered. “

At SafeProof.org we encourage bartenders, liquor distributors and employees to send in their tips on fake, adulterated, mis-branded, or refilled liquor bottles. All tips received are forwarded to the proper authorities as well as to the Liquor Brand manufactures for investigative follow up. We do accept anonymous tips.

We thank James Bullock for his honesty, integrity, and forthrightness in not only sending in the Tip to SafeProof.org, but in also agreeing to be interviewed and allowing his name to be used.

We have not named the Restaurant in Long Island City, NY to allow more time for the New York State Liquor Authorities to complete their investigation. SafeProof.org sent the tip to the New York State Liquor Authority on July 27, 2018.

SafeProof.org is a consumer advocacy group, funded through donations from concerned individuals, industry groups and alcohol brands. The goal of SafeProof.org is to raise awareness about the prevalence of counterfeit alcohol throughout the world. Our Alcohol Articles highlight alcohol related stories using worldwide news outlets and official government sources. Report any illicit alcohol activity to us using our secure form or by calling (833) SAFE-TIP To get the latest Alcohol Alerts and violation updates in your area Sign-up for SafeProof.org emails and follow us on Twitter @SafeProofAlert and on Instagram @SafeProof

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