The Spotted Pig, one of the seminal New York restaurants of the past 20 years, has closed after a rocky few years following the explosive allegations of sexual misconduct against its primary owner, Ken Friedman. In the days leading up to its shuttering, multiple sources told Eater that the staff had been informed to seek other work, while customers were told that this past weekend would be the restaurant’s last. By Monday morning, multiple staffers had posted to Instagram stating that the Pig was no more.
Rumors started flying less than a week ago that the restaurant would soon shutter, and by Sunday, as news traveled that the restaurant was running out of food, the Pig began offering a limited menu.
Friedman had denied the closure on Saturday and did not respond to multiple follow up questions on Sunday regarding rumors about the West Village institution’s end.
But today, Friedman confirmed the news. “I’ve spent all my family’s savings to keep the Pig open. Sadly, it wasn’t enough,” he said in an emailed statement, adding that he wasn’t able to raise money or sell the restaurant. “The Pig has been running in the red for a long time,” Friedman said.
The shuttering will result in the loss of 78 full-time or part-time jobs, according to the New York Times. It follows the announcement of a financial settlement between Friedman and 11 former employees who accused the restaurateur of misconduct such as forced kissing, requests for nude photos, and retaliation for speaking out.
Earlier this month, the state announced its investigation into sexual harassment and workplace discrimination claims at the Pig found that the “restaurant maintained a hostile workplace.” It led to the settlement, in which Friedman agreed to pay $240,000, plus 20 percent of his profits for the next decade, to the 11 ex-staffers. In addition, he told Eater at the time that he was “formally relinquishing” his role in “management and operations.”
The former employees, per the settlement, would also receive a share of the profits in the event of a sale of the restaurant. But if the restaurant remains closed and Friedman does not sell it, the ex-staffers will only receive the initial $240,000 payout. The attorney general’s office declined to comment.
Friedman has previously insisted that he would keep the restaurant open for the sake of the employees, even if it meant selling it. “I’m open to doing whatever it takes to have the Spotted Pig live on,” Friedman said. “Why should it close because of the dumb stuff that I did? That’s not fair to the employees.”
The Times also reported that ex-staffers who brought forward reports of harassment are trying to buy “what remains of the restaurant,” or come to an arrangement with the building owners and investors, who are seeking to sell the property.
The Spotted Pig opened in 2004 and was a near-instant success. There, Friedman and chef April Bloomfield attracted two-hour waits — and eventually, a Michelin nod — for sheep’s milk gnudi with brown butter and a grilled burger with pungent roquefort cheese and shoestring fries. Along with David Chang’s then-nascent Momofuku empire, the restaurant played a pivotal role in transforming New York gastronomy, emphasizing ambitious fare and bold flavors in stripped-down, noisy, and downright uncomfortable settings. Among the Spotted Pig’s celebrity investors were Michael Stipe and Jay-Z, who is reportedly also an owner of the building.
But many former employees alleged that a problematic work environment propelled that success. In 2017, former employees stepped forward to allege that Friedman had a history of inappropriate behavior, with some claiming that his longtime business partner Bloomfield did little to stop it. The claims, first published in the Times, came a day after Eater reported that Mario Batali was stepping away from his own restaurant empire over claims of misconduct. Batali, who was an investor at the Spotted Pig, was accused of sexual misconduct at the venue as well.
In the wake of the misconduct allegations, the chefs Gabrielle Hamilton and Ashley Merriman agreed to take over the Spotted Pig with the intention of reforming its culture; the partnership collapsed in September 2018.
Bloomfield ended her partnership with Friedman, though the divestment process is still ongoing. The bulk of the restaurants they jointly operated have closed, including White Gold Butchers, John Dory Oyster Bar, Tosca Cafe in San Francisco and Hearth and Hound in Los Angeles. Bloomfield still runs the Breslin, the last remaining restaurant of their former empire.
Monday, January 27, 9:33 a.m.: This post has been updated to reflect that the Spotted Pig appears to have closed, and to add new information from staffers and the attorney general’s office.
Monday, January 27, 4:35 p.m.: This post has been updated with Friedman’s statement, information regarding the number of jobs lost from the New York Times, and details on the possibility of former employees buying the restaurant.