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Imperial co-owner steps down amid sexual harassment allegations

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

The operations manager for a popular Ferndale restaurant group has stepped down after a cluster of allegations of a history of sexual harassment surfaced on social media this week. 

A brief statement about Jeff King's resignation was posted to all three of the restaurant's social media pages Thursday before all were removed. A representative for the Working Class Outlaw restaurant group confirmed King's resignation. Follow up inquiries about his ownership stake in the restaurant group were not immediately returned. 

The co-owner for popular Ferndale restaurant Imperial has stepped down after a cluster of allegations of a history of sexual harassment surfaced on social media this week.

"Working Class Outlaws are committed to handling any factually based allegations that are presented to validate the claims being made," reads an emailed statement to The Detroit News. "A confidential email address has been created by the company to review all factual findings. Please reach out to"

One of the group's Ferndale businesses, the Imperial on Woodward near Nine Mile, addressed the allegations with a social media post Wednesday. 

"In the last 24 hours, we’ve been blindsided by the allegations made by former employees. Honestly, we’re shocked. We’ve spent the last 24 hours investigating these claims internally and evaluating our processes and procedures to find validation to substantiate the allegations set forth on social media. We’re also trying to process and understand the base of these claims."

The post says such allegations were never brought to the attention of the owners, who also have restaurants on W. Nine Mile, Public House and Anithero. The company was in the process of turning the State Bar at the Fillmore Detroit into a second Imperial location when the pandemic hit. 

"That doesn’t mean we’re not listening. We HEAR YOU. We’re grateful that you are speaking up. We can’t change or address these important issues without understanding the challenges."

The post is in reaction to a group of around 20 screen shots collected from mostly anonymous accusers and former employees who allege Imperial co-owner Jeff King and former employees sexually harassed them and behaved inappropriately.

The screen shots were posted publicly Wednesday by a Facebook user, who accuses a former Imperial chef of physical abuse. 

Imperial is closed until July 9 to "re-evaluate and access" Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's new executive order announced Wednesday, which prohibits bars with 70% or more of their sales from alcohol to cease indoor service. Imperial is known for tacos and margaritas and has indoor and outdoor seating. 

The restaurant also closed last weekend after an anonymous diner called and said they dined there June 25 and had tested positive for COVID-19. Imperial reopened Monday after a professional cleaning service was hired and the local health department and staff were notified, they said. 

Working Class Outlaws' media representative told The Detroit News they believe the anonymous call was made by a former employee of the restaurant who left more than 18 months ago.

Twitter: @melodybaetens