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After allegations of abuse, Ferndale's Imperial to reopen with restructured ownership

Owners Sharon and Perry LaVoisne say they now own 100% of the restaurant group, have hired an HR firm and restructured their management team

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

Following accusations of sexual harassment and other inappropriate behavior from a co-owner last month, popular Ferndale bar and restaurant Imperial will reopen soon after severing ties with the operations manager. 

Owners Sharon and Perry LaVoisne said in a statement sent to The Detroit News that they've acquired former partner Jeff King's share of the restaurant group, Working Class Outlaws, and now have 100% ownership.

They said King was relieved of all responsibilities once they learned of the alleged inappropriate conduct. Additionally, they have taken "active steps to ensure our management policies and procedures are in line with our values.

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

Earlier this summer a group of around 20 screen shots collected from anonymous accusers and former employees circulated social media, alleging that King behaved inappropriately while running the restaurant group.

More:Imperial co-owner steps down amid sexual harassment allegations

Accounts describe sexual harassment by King, and one Facebook user accused a former chef of Working Class Outlaws of physical abuse. Former employees also describe problematic practices regarding reporting such incidents to upper management and a lack of an adequate human resources department. 

The accusations resulted in calls on social media for a boycott of not only Imperial, on Woodward near Nine Mile, but the group's other restaurants in Ferndale, Public House and Antihero. The latter has been closed since March and hadn't reopened, but Imperial and Public House reopened in June before closing in early July when the accusations against King hit. 

Also in early July, five members of the restaurants' bar staff issued a public letter of resignation stating "these circumstances are beyond our control and we refuse to defend such actions."

An announcement was made on all three restaurant's Facebook pages that King had stepped down. Shortly after, social media pages for all three businesses were deactivated. 

The LaVoisnes addressed facets of the fallout in their statement Thursday. 

“Needless to say, both Perry and I were deeply upset about the allegations and have taken active steps to ensure our management policies and procedures are in line with our values," said Sharon LaVoisne.

"We have restructured our management team and implemented mandatory sensitivity and sexual harassment training. As part of our restructuring, we realize it is important to have a third-party human resources professional on board to manage our HR. We have retained the ongoing services of EverythingHR, an award-winning, woman-owned consultancy firm, to serve as an independent resource for both ownership and employees going forward.”

"We are passionate about Imperial being a place where everyone feels welcome to work and dine," said Perry LaVoisne. "We don't tolerate harassment, abuse or racism." 

Imperial in Ferndale is known for serving California-style tacos and sonoran hot dogs.

Imperial, which serves California-style tacos and has a vast tequila selection, is expected to reopen this month. It's unsure when Public House and Antihero will come back. Before the pandemic and these accusations, the three Downtown Ferndale restaurants generally garnered favorable reviews from diners and were often busy. 

“We are dedicated to our guests, creating jobs for our community and providing a safe place for our employees while doing our part to keep Ferndale a vibrant entertainment district,” said Perry.


Twitter: @melodybaetens