Mario Batali’s Michelin-starred La Sirena is closing. The New York City restaurant is the first to shutter since the celebrity chef was accused of sexual misconduct last December. Batali took a leave of absence following reports of habitual sexual harassment, published in an Eater New York story. According to the publication, at least four women accused Batali of inappropriately touching them during his time at the helm of Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group, including groping their breasts and buttocks, among other claims. The issues haven’t stopped there.
The restaurant, from Batali and Joe Bastianich, will remain open in the Maritime Hotel until the end of the year. A B&B spokesperson confirmed the news to Eater, saying: “We are very proud of our hard-working, dedicated professionals who deliver great dining experiences to our guests every day. Our guests know just how special La Sirena is, and we’re grateful for their patronage.”
According to Eater, the restaurant has faced issues since its 2016 opening, despite the critical acclaim, and faced sagging sales well before the allegations against Batali. Sources told Eater sales suffered more following May news that the NYPD was launching a criminal investigation into his behavior. Its top two chefs, executive chef Anthony Sasso and executive pastry chef Thea Habjanic, left La Sirena in July as well. Eater added that multiple sources say a new group of restaurateurs are ready to take over the La Sirena Space at 88 Ninth Ave., “likely opening a steakhouse.”
The accusations against Batali have led to his removal from the TV show “The Chew,” as well as Eataly pulling his cookbooks off shelves. His three Las Vegas restaurants also closed after partners cut ties. He maintains a financial stake in his restaurants.
The NYPD told 60 Minutes that it had an ongoing investigation into Batali, looking into assault allegations. The CBS newsmagazine reported that a former Babbo employee alleged Batali assaulted her in 2015. She claims to have woken up after a party at the Spotted Pig restaurant with a “very deeply wounded” leg. She called a crisis hotline and went to a hospital but chose not to file a report. Batali has denied the incident.
Police were also investigating a crime in May, according to the New York Daily News. In that case, a woman came forward claiming she was drugged and raped by Batali. She said the incident occurred in 2004 at Babbo, and that she went to the police. A spokesman from B&B called the allegations “chilling and deeply disturbing,” per the Daily News.
Batali’s behavior was a key figure in the December scandal that emerged from Spotted Pig and James Beard Award-winning restaurateur Ken Friedman. Trish Nelson, a longtime server, according to The New York Times, said employees referred to Batali as “the Red Menace,” and that he tried to touch her breasts and told her they were beautiful. There was also an upstairs lounge at the restaurant nicknamed the “rape room.”
“Though I don’t remember these specific accounts, there is no question I have behaved terribly,” Batali wrote in an email to The New York Times at the time. “There are no excuses. I take full responsibility and am deeply sorry for any pain, humiliation or discomfort I have caused.”