Natalie Saibel, a longtime server at the Spotted Pig , a West Village restaurant with celebrity investors, didn’t quit in 2015 after the owner, Ken Friedman, ran his hands over her buttocks and then her groin in a room crowded with customers, joking that he was searching her pockets for a forbidden cellphone.
From almost the day in 2004 that it opened on West 11th Street with the backing of investors like Jay-Z, Michael Stipe and the celebrity chef Mario Batali, the Spotted Pig shot to the top of the list of New York City’s hottest restaurants and stayed there.
They said Mr. Friedman had frequent consensual sexual relationships with employees; openly hired, promoted or fired people based on their physical attractiveness; was often intoxicated at work; and pressured staff members to drink and take drugs with him and guests.
“I went to April directly multiple times about Ken’s inappropriate and abusive behavior, because among other problems it generated huge turnover among the staff,” said Natalie Freihon, a former food and beverage director for the group’s ventures at the Ace Hotel New York, including the Breslin and the John Dory.
When they quit, Mr. Friedman offered apologies, promises to reform and make-up gifts: in Ms. Seet’s case, tickets to a Lady Gaga concert and dinner for her and her wife at Quince, an elegant restaurant in San Francisco, where she had moved to manage the opening of Tosca Cafe.
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