The Spotted Pig, Where Employees Were Sexually Harassed, Closes

The Spotted Pig, Where Employees Were Sexually Harassed, Closes

The Spotted Pig, the Manhattan gastro pub at the center of a sexual harassment scandal that devastated the careers of the celebrated chefs Mario Batali and April Bloomfield, served its last meal Sunday night.

The closing came less than a month after Letitia James, the New York State attorney general, announced that Ken Friedman, the principal owner, had agreed to settle claims of sexual harassment, retaliation and gender discrimination by 11 former employees in a deal that included a share of the restaurant’s profits for a decade.

The closing was confirmed Monday by Mr. Friedman, who said in a statement: “For over two years I have done everything possible to keep the Spotted Pig open. I’ve been working to try to raise funds or sell my shares, in order to save the business, to continue to support our great employees — many of whom have been with us for over a decade — so they could keep their jobs and health benefits.”

Mr. Friedman said the closing put 78 full- and part-time employees out of work.

But how the closing will affect the settlement is not clear. According to the agreement, the employees were to divide a lump payment of $240,000 from Mr. Friedman, then 20 percent of his profits from the Spotted Pig for 10 years. That 20 percent share would include any profits from a sale of the restaurant within that period. (The former employees had pushed for a bigger lump sum, but because Mr. Friedman claimed financial difficulties, they agreed to take a percentage of the restaurant’s profits instead.)

The attorney general’s office confirmed Monday that the former employees would still be entitled to the cash payout from Mr. Friedman if the business closed outright and was not sold.

Jamie Seet, one of the former employees who joined in the agreement, said she had long suspected that they would not receive any money from the profit-sharing arrangement. “Today, my main feeling is sadness for the people who lost their jobs, and for the end of something that was a big part of my life,” she said.

In his statement, Mr. Friedman suggested that his resources were exhausted: “I’ve spent all my family’s savings to keep the Pig open. Sadly, it wasn’t enough. We’ve been unable to raise funds or sell the business, which we needed to do to pay the rent and other debts. The Pig has been running in the red for a long time. And so it must close.

“I love the Spotted Pig and all the staff who helped make it such an iconic place,” the statement added. “I’m sorry I did not create a sustainable work environment. Its closing is the saddest thing I’ve had to face in my professional life. I want to thank our loyal employees and devoted patrons, who have been like family.”

The Spotted Pig was a hit among New Yorkers as soon as Mr. Friedman opened it in 2004 with Ms. Bloomfield, and became an international destination when the restaurant won a Michelin star a year after opening. Waits stretched hours for the chance to eat Ms. Bloomfield’s famous burger with Roquefort cheese and shoestring fries (priced at $29 on Sunday’s final dinner menu) and to spot celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Jay-Z as they were whisked upstairs to a private room.

(Jay-Z is an owner of the building.)

“It was like a kids’ clubhouse, but with the best food and most beautiful people,” said Jessica Steinberg, a writer who said she was a regular there in the early years. “The magic was that when you finally got in, you felt like you belonged there.”

Over the past weekend, current and former employees mourned its closing.

“It almost feels like a family member died or something,” said Robinson Muir, 32, who started working at the Spotted Pig as a busboy when he was 18 and spent eight years working in the front of the house there and at the Breslin in Manhattan’s Ace Hotel, which Mr. Friedman and Ms. Bloomfield opened in 2009, and which Ms. Bloomfield still operates as chef.

Mr. Muir and other current and former employees spent much of Sunday texting, posting on social media and commiserating.

“We all kind of grew up there, and it was one of the places I thought would never go away,” said Mr. Muir, who has since moved to Seattle, where he works for Microsoft. “Obviously we empathize with the women, and are glad they are getting the justice they deserve, but it’s like dealing with abusive parents in a way. You have such mixed and sort of complicated feelings about it.”

The claims about working conditions at the Spotted Pig were first reported in a December 2017 article in The New York Times. Immediately, the once-thriving empire of restaurants that Mr. Friedman and Ms. Bloomfield built as partners began to disintegrate.

An independent investigation by the attorney general’s office found that since the restaurant’s opening, Mr. Friedman had created a hostile workplace where female employees were subjected to pervasive sexual harassment by him and by guests of the restaurant, including Mr. Batali. It also found that Ms. Bloomfield and other people in positions of authority did not try to stop the harassment.

Since the Times report appeared, Mr. Friedman and Ms. Bloomfield have been dissolving their partnership. Ms. Bloomfield still owns 24 percent of the Spotted Pig. All of the seven restaurants they opened together, with the exception of the Breslin, have closed or been sold.

In 2018, the chefs Gabrielle Hamilton and Ashley Merriman, owners of Prune in the East Village, offered to buy part of the Spotted Pig and rebuild it alongside Mr. Friedman as a model workplace for women, an idea that was greeted with heated criticism because Mr. Friedman would continue to receive financial benefit. The two withdrew their offer soon afterward.

Now that the restaurant has closed, some of the former employees who came forward with accounts of harassment and received a settlement are trying to buy what remains of the restaurant — or work something out with investors and the owners of the building, who are looking to sell it, said one of the women, Trish Nelson.

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