Ken Friedman, the owner of the Spotted Pig restaurant in New York's West Village, has been accused of sexual harassment in a New York Times expose. Former employees called the restaurant's VIP space "the rape room."
Nathalie Saibel, a server, said Friedman touched her buttocks and her groin while joking about searching her for a cellphone in 2015. Amy Dee Richardson, a bar manager, said she was bit by Friedman on the waist in 2004.
Trish Nelson, another server, said he grabbed her head and pulled it towards his crotch in front of actress Amy Poehler in 2007. Nelson told The Times that Friedman also offered her marijuana and pushed his tongue into her mouth in 2012.
Days later, Nelson quit and was scared to tell anyone what happened. "Ken bragged about blacklisting people all the time. And we saw it happen," she told the Times.
The Times interviewed 10 women who said Friedman made unwanted sexual advances in public, including groping them and demanding sex. They also claimed Friedman asked them for nude photos or to take part in group sex. They claimed working for him included shifts during private parties, where attendees had sex and were nude.
“We had to brace ourselves every time Ken arrived,” Saibel told The Times. "When he wasn’t coming on to us, he was screaming at us.”
Saibel said she wrote up a formal complaint about Friedman's behavior. She and her husband, who also worked for the Spotted Pig, were fired for minor violations, she said.
Nelson also recalled a 2008 party that Mario Batali attended. Camera footage showed him drunk, groping and kissing women. Nelson said employees called Batali the "Red Menace."
Employees and industry insiders told the Times that the third-floor room used for parties was called "the rape room."
Friedman sent a statement to the Times, admitting that his "personal and professional life was intertwined with our restaurants and out staff."
"I own my behavior, which can accurately be described at times as abrasive, rude and frankly wrong," Friedman continued. He said it was "unjustifiable" to put some women in "humiliating positions," but some of the incidents "were not as described."
Chef April Bloomfield, who gained fame for her work at the Spotted Pig, said she referred two incidents of "unwanted approaches" to "our outside labor counsel and they were addressed internally." She said she feels "we have let down our employees and for that I sincerely apologize."
Friedman has taken a leave of absence from his restaurants.
Photo credit: Twitter/ Ken Friedman