Ken Friedman is leaving his famed West Village gastropub the Spotted Pig — a development following a settlement from the New York attorney general’s office regarding its investigation into sexual harassment and workplace discrimination claims, according to a statement from Friedman.
The state started looking into Friedman in 2018 after multiple staffers accused him of sexual misconduct such as requesting nude photos and groping staffers in a Times investigation. The restaurateur is “formally relinquishing my role in management and operations,” the statement says. He also tells Eater that he is giving up ownership, though he did not immediately clarify who will take over his majority stake. A longtime general manager is still running the restaurant, which remains open for now.
According to the Times, Friedman has also agreed to pay $240,000 and 20 percent of his profits for the next decade to 11 former staffers who accused him of misconduct as part of the settlement. The employees will also receive a portion of profits in any sale of the restaurant.
A statement from the attorney general’s office notes that Friedman and the Pig “failed to systematically address or take adequate action” against behavior such as unwanted touching and sexually explicit comments toward female staff. Besides the payment, the restaurant must put new anti-harassment policies into place.
“While I am aware that nothing will completely repair the damage I’ve caused, and although I disagree with several of the allegations, I hope this agreement will bring some comfort to those former employees impacted by my behavior,” Friedman writes. “And I hope we are all able to put this painful chapter behind us.” See Friedman’s full statement below.
Friedman opened the Spotted Pig with chef April Bloomfield in 2004, and together, they created a destination known for its elevated pub fare and celebrity clientele. It named famous investors like Michael Stipe and Jay-Z, who purportedly owns the building. More than a decade later, it still remained one of the hottest spots for a burger and people watching in the city.
But in 2017, in the wake of the #MeToo movement, many former employees came forward to allege that Friedman had a history of inappropriate behavior — including claims that he retaliated against anybody who spoke out. Mario Batali, another famous investor at the restaurant, was also accused of sexual misconduct, both in his own Italian empire and at the Spotted Pig. Bloomfield dissolved her partnership with Friedman — they’re still working through the divestment process — and several of the restaurants that they opened together closed, such as White Gold Butchers and John Dory Oyster Bar.
Friedman kept their most famous restaurant, the Spotted Pig. He at one point planned to partner with Gabrielle Hamilton and Ashley Merriman of Prune to run it, but the deal fell through. By summer 2019, the restaurateur announced that he was willing to give up ownership stake if the “foodies” would return.
Friedman’s full statement:
I have been largely silent since offering a public apology in December, 2017. Some people believed that silence represented a lack of contrition and remorse for my actions. That could not be further from the truth.
I have taken this time to listen to women, who have previously been afraid to speak. It continues to be a time for them to talk, and me to learn. By far the most transformational part of this time of reflection was becoming a parent. In July of 2018, I was blessed with the birth of my first child, an experience that redefined the rest of my life.
I’m sorry for the harm I have caused, and for being part of an environment where women were afraid to speak up. I will spend the rest of my life regretting my actions, and trying to be someone worthy of the respect and love of my family.
Today we settled the investigation conducted by the Attorney General’s office. Although I stepped away from The Spotted Pig some time ago, I am also formally relinquishing my role in management and operations.
While I am aware that nothing will completely repair the damage I’ve caused, and although I disagree with several of the allegations, I hope this agreement will bring some comfort to those former employees impacted by my behavior. And I hope we are all able to put this painful chapter behind us.
My time at the Spotted Pig is over, but the learning process is not, and I will continue to experience the consequences of my actions. Leaving the restaurant I built 16 years ago is just one of those many consequences.
This story has been updated to include new information about the settlement.
Stefanie Tuder contributed to this report.