One of New York City's most influential—and controversial—restaurants is closing. Over two years after the New York Times reported on allegations of rampant sexual harassment and misconduct at the Spotted Pig, Ken Friedman's West Village gastropub, multiple employees have confirmed on social media that the restaurant will shut its doors, a sudden move that has surprised the New York restaurant world.
The Spotted Pig's chef, Tony Nassif, shared Instagram posts announcing the news just days after Friedman had denied closing rumors to Eater. Earlier this month, New York State Attorney General Letitia James announced the result of a year-and-a-half-long investigation into sexual harassment and workplace discrimination claims, finding that women employees were subjected to "severe and pervasive incidents of unwanted touching and unwelcome sexual advances by Friedman."
Per the settlement reached, Friedman severed all ties with the restaurant and agreed to pay $240,000 and a share of his profits among 11 former employees who accused him of misconduct. The restaurant's sudden shuttering adds a new wrinkle to the profit-sharing part of the settlement; as Jezebel points out, it remains to be seen whether there's a stipulation for such an event. (Had the restaurant been sold, rather than closed, the victims would have received a portion of those profits; the settlement dictates that they are entitled to 20 percent of Friedman's profits for the next decade.)
"I can’t believe it’s over. This place changed the game for gastro pubs," said Nassif on Instagram. "First pub to get a Michelin star in the world and made an impact on me like no other."
As a result of the investigation launched after the Times article, the New York State attorney general's office found that the restaurant had violated both state and city human-rights laws as far back as 2004.
"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,” said James.
After the settlement, former Spotted Pig employee Trish Nelson spoke on our Communal Table podcast about the future of the restaurant and the culture of fear that keeps workers from speaking out against harassment. In an interview with senior editor Kat Kinsman, Nelson expressed her hope that the restaurant would be sold.
"I would like to see those very powerful investors like Jay-Z and Bono and Fatboy Slim—what do they need with a failing restaurant?" she said. "Why don't they buy Ken out and why don't they donate those shares, gift them to these working class women like myself who made that establishment and made April and Ken's empires what it was? I would love to turn that restaurant into a beacon of hope for the working class, for women."
She continued, "If I were able to actually take over ownership of the Pig at some point in my life along with the women who are a part of this case, I would love the diners to feel like they were contributing to this general understanding of the restaurant industry's changing. In our hands, we would be able to actually implement protocol that would make our employees feel safe. We would be able to pull in outdoor HR resources so that it isn't just about our company being protected; it's about the people who work for us being protected. We would be able to donate a portion of the proceeds to RAINN, or just to truly bring it home to say, we are invested in revamping this restaurant culture and being a leader in what a mentally stable establishment. You can feel proud eating here because you know you're contributing to change."
Update: Friedman has confirmed to the New York Times that the Spotted Pig has closed. "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," he said in a statement. "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."