Trouble in Harlem: Ryan Skeen ‘Assaulted’ by GM, Loses Front of House

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Not a week after opening his new Harlem endeavor, 5 & Diamond, Ryan Skeen has lost his general manager, the notorious Gwen Butler, after an incident that occurred after service Wednesday night. “She assaulted me,” Skeen tells us. We’ve heard the chef was punched in the face, but Skeen, without getting into specifics, quibbled with that description: “In my opinion, it’s a woman kind of attacking me — in my mind, it’s not like me and a guy throwing punches with each other.” Butler, who is also keeping things vague, told us in an e-mail, “Maybe I’m too street, but I respond in kind to someone putting their hands on me.” Needless to say, Butler is no longer at the restaurant, and her front-of-house staff has left with her. So what exactly happened?

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First off, Skeen tells us, “I like Gwen a lot. I think she’s a really good person. Gwen is the person who put me in touch with my partners up there.” Butler confirms, “I was the one who campaigned very hard to place him in his position and cleared a lot of space around him with the owners to come and go and do exactly as he pleased while he worked on other projects.” (We’ve heard Skeen has also been working with the owners of Coffee Shop, who you’ll recall were set to take over Empire Diner.)

So will the front-of-house exodus affect service? “I’ve got a full staff of people waiting to come work with me,” Skeen tells us. “I don’t feel her staff was up to par with what I would’ve done anyway. I think it’ll only make the restaurant better at this point because the bad energy only affects the restaurant.”

All that said, both parties wish each other well. “I greatly enjoyed working and talking with him and regret we parted ways,” says Butler. And Skeen: “She’s a good person and I hate to see this.”

For him to insinuate I did anything less than a stellar job — in a fraction of the usual time and money it takes — conceptualizing, physically building and developing this project is delusional and insulting. So much so that the whole FOH staff quit in protest over his attitude toward me and the owners’ complete lack of integrity vis a vis our original partnership agreement and my role as GM.

So in a way Ryan is correct in saying I wasn’t running the foh to his liking — it wasn’t to mine either. When the owners began to undermine my position— as well as reneging on partnership promises to me days before we opened — Ryan stood back and let it happen.

First off, Skeen tells us, “I like Gwen a lot. I think she’s a really good person. Gwen is the person who put me in touch with my partners up there.” Butler confirms, “I was the one who campaigned very hard to place him in his position and cleared a lot of space around him with the owners to come and go and do exactly as he pleased while he worked on other projects.” (We’ve heard Skeen has also been working with the owners of Coffee Shop, who you’ll recall were set to take over Empire Diner.)

So will the front-of-house exodus affect service? “I’ve got a full staff of people waiting to come work with me,” Skeen tells us. “I don’t feel her staff was up to par with what I would’ve done anyway. I think it’ll only make the restaurant better at this point because the bad energy only affects the restaurant.”

All that said, both parties wish each other well. “I greatly enjoyed working and talking with him and regret we parted ways,” says Butler. And Skeen: “She’s a good person and I hate to see this.”