‘Boycott Gardies’ campaign launched after ‘sexual harassment’ claims

Olly Hudson 22 March 2015

A post on the 'Fly Girls of Cambridge' blog alleging sexual assault from a member of staff at The Gardenia has led to a campaign to boycott the restaurant. Launched anonymously over Facebook, the ‘Boycott Gardies’ campaign had gained over 300 ‘likes’ at the time of writing.

The campaign told The Cambridge Student that their aim is “simple… we want a full investigation, with the results published by Gardies' owners. We also want new provisions to make sure this can’t happen again, such as a clear complaints procedure, a formal statement of working practise or a code of conduct for staff members, and we want new CCTV equipment to monitor both the upstairs area and the downstairs counter.”

The Gardenia has now responded to TCS’ requests for comment. The owner Vas Anastasiou, suggested that the starting a boycott without prior communication was "not fair", and emphasised the close relationship the restaurant has with the student body. 

The boycott has been prompted by a recent post on the Fly. blog, in which the anonymous writer alleged that a Gardies employee blocked her exit until she kissed him. The blog is an off-shoot of the FLY group that supports women of colour at Cambridge University.

The campaign commented that the alleged assault was not a one-time occurrence, but that they “have watched it happen and heard many stories from friends. Everyone seems to have a ‘Gardies story’”. Despite this, no further allegations against The Gardenia’s staff have been released.

However, Audrey Sebatindira, CUSU BME Women's representative, also commented that this was a repeated issue, telling TCS “It's clear that the woman who wrote for us is by no means the only one to have experienced (or witnessed) the misogyny and harassment that she received at the hands of the staff at Gardies… We hope, through this boycott, to hold the staff at Gardies accountable for their actions and raise awareness concerning this issue. By refusing to support their business, we show that we will no longer implicitly condone sexual harassment at their hands.”

Charlotte Chorley, CUSU Women’s Officer Elect, echoed Sebatindira’s comments, saying, “Unfortunately, this is not the first testimony that I have heard about bad experiences in Gardies. It seems that the establishment has a history of sexist, sexualised and entirely inappropriate actions towards women” and went on to comment that the campaign “is a positive step in getting people to talk about their experiences of sexual harassment in Cambridge. Hopefully the public attention will force an investigation into the actions of the staff.”

UPDATE: This article was updated on 23/03/2015 to include a response from the Gardies management.