A New York Times article today delves further into the complicated process of a professional separation between restaurant partners Ken Friedman and April Bloomfield and its implications for their restaurant group, Biergarten LLC, which includes San Francisco’s Tosca Cafe. Once hailed as the saviors of that North Beach institution, beloved for its bourbon-laced house cappuccino and old-world ambiance, the professional couple now appears to have left the restaurant in much the same uncertain position in which they found it.
Friedman, a music industry executive turned restaurateur, stepped away from the day-to-day-operations of his businesses, including New York’s Spotted Pig and Tosca, in December after ten women came forward with allegations that he had sexually harassed them. While those allegations have been particularly felt in New York, they’ve hung heavily over Tosca as well, a more distant satellite of Friedman and Bloomfield’s business empire which they purchased in 2013 after its longtime owner, Jeanette Etheredge, retired.
According to the Times, “as lawyers for Mr. Friedman and Ms. Bloomfield near the end of efforts to dissolve the partnership, the fate of two of their six remaining restaurants — the Breslin Bar and Dining Room and the John Dory Oyster Bar, both in the Ace hotel in Manhattan — is particularly uncertain.” Elsewhere, the paper writes, they are “shedding talent,” and Tosca is a prime example.
There, Tosca chef Josh Even — one of Bloomfield’s “longest-serving lieutenants,” per the Times — and general manager Dana Katzakian are leading the professional exodus. After unsuccessfully seeking to buy the restaurant from Bloomfield and Friedman, Even and Katzakian quit their posts, as reported earlier this week, leaving the restaurant drained of top talent. They officially depart on June 1.
Even Friedman’s seemingly inevitable exit from his business partnership with Bloomfield might not be enough to satisfy many of Bloomfield’s peers and customers, some of whom consider her complicit in Friedman’s actions.
“April is one of the few women in this industry who worked their way up through the trenches,” Trish Nelson, one former employee who alleges that Friedman assaulted her, tells the Times. “She had to be so tough to get there, and then she had to keep being tough to stay there, to the point of becoming inhuman.”
Gayle Pirie, chef and co-owner of San Francisco restaurant Foreign Cinema, expressed a similar sentiment. “I am dumbstruck that a female partner could possibly be complicit in the abhorrent behavior of her male partner,” she told the San Francisco Chronicle.
Meanwhile, Friedman and Bloomfield’s plans for other outposts in San Francisco have been scrapped or appear to be at an impasse. A foreseen collaboration with Tartine in the Hotel G, for example, will proceed without them. The duo had also hoped to open a bar in another historic North Beach space, the now-closed, worker-owned strip club the Lusty Lady. Given the nature of the allegations against Friedman, such a venture bearing his fingerprints appears particularly unlikely.
In response to a request for comment from Bloomfield, a representative tells Eater SF that there is “nothing to report at the moment.”