Co-owner of popular Ferndale bar resigns amid allegations of harassment, toxic behavior

FERNDALE, Mich. – On a normal Friday night, Imperial Restaurant on Woodward Avenue in Ferndale would be slammed with people.

The popular spot is currently closed and one of its co-owners stepped down from his job after allegations of sexual harassment, racism and toxic behavior.

The social media firestorm started with someone complaining staff at Imperial weren’t wearing gloves and masks. When a former employee shared that Yelp review on Facebook, it led to hundreds of comments of other allegations.

“I’m honestly not shocked,” said former worker Keely Clements. “The way they run their business, it’s really not a shocker.”

Clements said she was fired from Imperial after raising concerns about what she felt was a racist drawing used to advertise a new cocktail.

“I am upset and angry that I kind of let these things sit and burrow inside of me for so long because I didn’t really feel comfortable coming forward because they are such a popular company and restaurant,” Clements said.

There have been numerous anonymous allegations against Jeff King online.

One person wrote, “The owners treat the waitresses like playboy bunnies.”

Another posted, “This restaurant group has left a heartbreaking heap of shattered livelihoods in their wake.”

“It organically grew, and I realized just how heavy and deep this had become and I couldn’t just keep this to myself anymore,” Clements said.

Imperial is owned by Working Class Outlaws, which also owns Antihero and Public House in Ferndale. After expressing shock about the allegations on Facebook, the company removed their social media accounts.

“They haven’t addressed to this properly whatsoever,” Clements said. “The serving staff, the kitchen staff, the bar staff -- a lot of them are very good people and deserve better than this.”

Working Class Outlaws announced King is stepping down as an operational manager. It’s not clear if King will continue to co-own Imperial. Clements is talking to a lawyer and said several others are also considering taking legal action.

Local 4 has made multiple attempts to reach Working Class Outlaws, but have not heard back as of Friday afternoon.

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