On the afternoon of Thursday May 18, Fiona Deane-Grundman, 23, and her three friends did the impossible: made a same-day dinner reservation at Horses, a Los Angeles restaurant that has become a celebrity-packed destination since opening in fall 2021.
Usually, getting a prime reservation with no notice at Horses is a near-impossibility for anyone other than, say, a Kardashian. This, though, was no ordinary Thursday night. The crew had heard the rumors that set the internet aflame in the last week—including some so lewd and gruesome that they sounded straight out of a (very disturbing) movie. The restaurant’s two co-owners, who are currently going through what has become a very public divorce, levied multiple accusations of abuse and domestic violence against one another, the most shocking—and publicized—of which involves the abuse or murder of up to 14 of their own pets. One of Deane-Grudman’s dining mates, Ben Leaños, 26, said they were concerned that this might be their last chance to eat at Horses.
“We felt kind of gauche going,” said Deane-Grudman. “But they never have reservations.”
Even before the rumors, Horses was one of those restaurants whose reputation precedes it. Since opening, it has garnered critical praise for its vibey atmosphere and well-executed California bistro fare, and become a magnet for celebrities like Kendall Jenner, Jay-Z, and Will Ferrell. Last summer, Eater’s reporting on the disgraced restaurateur Ken Friedman’s involvement in the early days of the restaurant did little to minimize its popularity or ease the challenge of snagging a table.
But the recent gossip has been darker. After several days of social media buzz and group chat speculation, The Los Angeles Times reported on Wednesday, May 17, that chef Liz Johnson was granted a restraining order against her husband and partner in the restaurant, Will Aghajanian, in November of 2022 after having accused him of multiple forms of abuse, including killing more than one of their cats. In response, Aghajanian disputed the allegations, accused his wife of animal abuse as well, and said that she was attempting to take control of the restaurant by assuming his legal stake.
Though the drama was largely in regards to the pair’s divorce, it seems that it has occasionally spilled into the restaurant. One employee allegedly threatened to quit because of the intense and violent tenor between the two, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Since news of the domestic and animal abuse allegations became public, staff who manage the restaurant’s email and Instagram have allegedly received death threats, according to one Horses employee.
On the evening of Wednesday, May 17, Horses posted a statement on Instagram claiming that Aghajanian has not been involved in the day-to-day operations of the restaurant for the past six months.