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London restaurateur labelled 'Nazi bigot' by trans activists after hosting Sharron Davies for lunch

10 August 2023, 08:58

James Chiavarini says attacks on his restaurant have been ramping up in recent months
James Chiavarini says attacks on his restaurant have been ramping up in recent months. Picture: social media/James Chiavarini
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

A London restaurateur has been labelled a "Nazi bigot" and told to kill himself by trans activists after he hosted former Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies for lunch.

James Chiavarini, who runs the family-run Italian restaurant Il Portico on Kensington High Street, says his restaurant has been targeted by activists for "months" - but attacks have stepped up in the last few days.

"There's been one-star reviews, nasty comments online...You can't let this stuff get to you, you can't let the b*****ds get you down," he told LBC.

"At the end of the day, that's what they want. they want you to feel pressurised...Why would I give up all my hard work, all my integrity, principles - for what, for who?"

Ms Davies had been at the London restaurant to celebrate Fair Play for Women, a campaign group which aims to "protect the rights of women and girls in the UK".

The GB Olympic medalist previously told LBC that biological women are expected to "move over" to allow trans women to compete in all-female categories, even though they have a "massive biological advantage".

This is a sentiment that Mr Chiavarini agrees with, saying that he fully supports trans people having equal rights in the eyes of the law, and added that he would support an open sport category that would allow men, women, and trans people to compete against one another.

It is these beliefs, as well as his support of celebrities such as Ms Davies, J.K. Rowling, and Daley Thompson, that have led to a wave of attacks on him and his restaurant.

James Chiavarini with Sharron Davies and Daley Thompson
James Chiavarini with Sharron Davies and Daley Thompson. Picture: Twitter/James Chiavarini

On Tuesday, the business owner showed up at Il Portico to find 'No Terfs on our turf' stickers on his restaurant.

There have also been a number of fake one-star reviews left on Google, with one reading: "It's weird because I think I saw the owner rolling around in the floor in the back. They were covered head to toe in ranch dressing and saying "this is medicine".

Another said: "Average at best. Hard-core bigot of a proprietor."

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After posting about the reviews on X (formerly Twitter), one person said they hoped his restaurant is "firebombed".

Mr Chiavarini told LBC that while the reviews and hate is unpleasant, he will not allow it to affect him or change his views.

"We want a real, liberal, progressive agenda, which is equality in the eyes of the law for everybody. You just have to be careful that nobody oversteps the mark" he said.

It is not the first time Mr Chiavarini has been targeted for speaking out in support of certain causes.

After Il Portico's sister restaurant teamed up with JK Rowling to raise £24,000 for those affected by Ukraine, Mr Chiavarini says he became the target for activists who disagree with the author's views.

In June last year, Il Portico has its windows smashed following the fundraiser, though Mr Chiavarini was unable to prove exactly who carried out the attacks.

In May of this year, after his restaurant was labelled a "safe space" for women online, the restaurateur says Il Portico was targeted once again, including fake one-star Google reviews and prank calls to the restaurant.

Il Portico, west London
Il Portico, west London. Picture: James Chiavarini

He told LBC at the time: "They call us transphobes, a Nazi restaurant, they say that we associate with fascists. There's been fake reviews and also prank calls being made to staff.

"It's been happening all week...It's easy pickings for them. They choose a public-facing business and Google will allow anyone to place a review regardless of whether they've been there. It's so easy for them, you don't have to engage."

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Mr Chiavarini says he knows the reviews are fake as he regularly asks those leaving poor reviews to get in touch to verify their experience.

One woman left the same review on two of Mr Chiavarini's restaurants - one of which has been closed down for more than a year - which he says shows how his businesses have been personally targeted.

One review read: "Disgusting food along with the owner being a horrible individual."

Another said, simply: "Bad experience."

Other reviews appear to have been taken down, which Google will do if it says it can identify a 'violation', which would include being a fake account.

There is a concern that the fake reviews, despite them being in the minority, could have an impact on business.

One Google review
One Google review. Picture: Google
James will ask reviewers to verify their identity
James will ask reviewers to verify their identity. Picture: Google

"The way we're set up, we're biologically hard-wired to pay more attention to the negative. A one-star review carried more weight than 15 five-star reviews - it can do a lot of damage," Mr Chiavarini SAID.

"But it can have a very short shelf life. The good will of five-star reviews tends to last longer, especially as people realise how deranged some people are acting. They're burning bridges with the public."

James added that if anything, the negative reviews has only "strengthened my resolve" in supporting the likes of JK Rowling, who herself has been targeted.

In November 2021, the Harry Potter author had her address posted online by a series of activists, prompting a police investigation.

At the time, she said she believed it was an attempt to "intimidate" her "out of speaking up for women's sex-based rights".

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