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Jess Dunne and Jennilee Morris, co-owners of North Fork Roasting Co. in Southold. (Credit: Vera Chinese)

Jess and Jennilee Morris at North Fork Roasting Co. in 2015. (Northforker file photo)

The owners of North Fork Roasting Co. are stepping away from a proposed new business venture after a popular New York City food blog outed disgraced restaurateur Ken Friedman as a partner in the project. 

Days of Wine and Roses was in its infancy of operating out of a former Town and Country office on Main Road in Southold. A “murder mystery” event promoted and catered by Jennilee Morris’ Grace & Grit was hosted at the site March 23. The evening included cocktails, light bites and entertainment from a theater group, according to several event listings.

But days later, a post on Eater New York revealed that disgraced restaurateur Ken Friedman was a partner in the project, with his name appearing along with Morris’ on a listing for the location’s temporary license from the New York State Liquor Authority. A previous filing with the Town of Southold lists only a representative of Town and Country as an associate and no individuals are publicly listed on Days of Wine and Roses’ corporate filing with the Department of State, which was submitted in September.

Now Morris and her wife and business partner, Jess, are distancing themselves from the project.

“While we had preliminary discussions with Ken Friedman about pursuing this new local business opportunity, there was no formal agreement in place,” the couple said in a statement. “After thoughtful consideration, we’ve decided against moving forward with this venture and instead will continue to focus our efforts on our current business, North Fork Roasting Company.”

They declined to be interviewed further.

Not long ago, Friedman was on top of the dining world.

The owner of several New York City restaurants, including the iconic Spotted Pig in the West Village, he was named Outstanding Restaurateur by the James Beard Foundation in 2016. In early December 2017, he and former business partner April Bloomfield, a Michelin-starred chef, made headlines by opening their first Los Angeles restaurant together.

One week after the opening, Mr. Friedman’s career trajectory took a swift downward turn following a front page story in the New York Times outlining alleged indiscretions by the restaurateur, including allegations of inappropriate touching and harassing behavior of women. In total, the Times reported that more than two dozen people who had worked at his restaurants described “patterns of sexual harassment and verbal abuse” by Mr. Friedman.

While he has reportedly denied some of the accusations and apologized for others, the allegations raised in the Times piece have led to severed business relationships and even lawsuits against the former restaurant world star.

His connection to Days of Wine and Roses led several media outlets to speculate that he was planning a comeback effort on the North Fork. Edible East End used its Instagram account to publicly question the Morris’ association with Friedman, polling its readers with a long series of questions about the partnership.

The statement from the Morris’ has been the only public comment on the matter from individuals tied to the business venture.