Restaurateur Ken Friedman, the principal owner of West Village hotspot the Spotted Pig, has agreed to pay $240,000 and a share of his profits to 11 former employees who have accused him of sexual harassment, retaliation and discrimination, as part of a settlement with the New York Attorney General's Office. In addition, he announced that he will step down from managing or operating the Spotted Pig.
In 2018, the New York Attorney General's office opened an investigation into the Spotted Pig, Friedman, and celebrity chef Mario Batali, who was one of the restaurant's investors. Multiple staffers at the time had accused Friedman of sexual misconduct, including requesting nude photos and groping staffers. A third floor space at the Spotted Pig was also known as the "rape room," and an investigation disclosed how Friedman and Batali allegedly used their power to make unwanted sexual advances on the women who worked there.
The investigation alleged that when employees complained about unwanted touching and sexual advances from Friedman, Friedman retaliated by firing employees or trying to blackball them in the industry.
“No matter how high-profile the establishment, or how seemingly powerful the owners, today’s settlement reiterates the fact that we will not tolerate sexual harassment of any form in the workplace,” attorney general Letitia James said in a statement. She also thanked the women who came forward “for their bravery, their voices, and their unwavering commitment to ensuring a safe, harassment-free workplace.”
Friedman released a long statement, in which he noted he disagreed "with several of the allegations," and insinuates the recent birth of his first child has changed him in some way.
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.
The Times reports that the 11 women will share the $240K payment, which will be paid out over the next two years. For the next decade, 20 percent of Friedman's profits from the restaurant, which he first opened with chef April Bloomfield in 2004, will go toward the women as well; that includes any money he makes if he sells the business, of which he owns 75-80 percent.
Since the allegations became public, Bloomfield ended her partnership with Friedman, though Eater notes they’re still working through the divestment process. Several of the other restaurants they had opened together have also since closed, including White Gold Butchers and John Dory Oyster Bar.
Last summer, Friedman had said he was open to selling his shares of the restaurant to keep it in business: “I’m open to doing whatever it takes to have the Spotted Pig live on,” Friedman told Eater. “If taking my damaged reputation out of the equation gets foodies to come, I would do that.”