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A TGI Fridays bartender has been locked up for grooming and sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl.
Award-winning "king of the cocktail makers" Dave Tsouvallaris was rehired by the family friendly restaurant despite being a registered sex offender.
The paedohpile barman, 33, from Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, was handed a community order in 2015 for making indecent images of children and possessing prohibited images of children.
But that did not get in the way of him landing a job where staff are expected to sing to kids, Birmingham Live reports.
This week, the sex attacker was jailed for over a decade at Northampton Crown Court where it was heard his victim is so mentally scarred by the ordeal, she has self-harmed and attempted suicide.
It was revealed in Birmingham Live's sister paper, Sunday Mercury that Tsouvallaris:
- Was welcomed back by his former employer, popular chain TGI Friday, AFTER his Birmingham Crown Court sentence in 2015. There, he was an enthusiastic performer at the business’s signature children’s birthday spreads, singing with gusto.
- Went on to work for cocktail business Be At One – and earned gushing headlines in 2018 after winning the firm’s national Bartender Challenge. The sex offender came top out of a field of 200 contestants, scooping £2,000 and a three-day holiday.
- Set up his own mobile bar service, Flair Incorporated, in September, 2015. The events on offer included non-alcoholic Mocktail parties.
- Launched, in 2019, a Leicester bar, 63rd & First. The gushing prose that followed the glitzy venue’s opening, included: “Dave is a trainer for the World Flair Association, so expect to see bottles flying as he mixes the cocktails.”
Despite his grubby past, Tsouvallaris went on to glide to the top of his profession. Award followed award.
One former colleague told the Sunday Mercury: “He was able to move with immunity because no one did their checks. That has to be a matter of public concern.
“I don’t think anyone batted an eyelid when he returned to TGI Fridays. People are shocked, they didn’t expect it. The guy was not your everyday paedophile, he wasn’t the strange, little man.
“He was charismatic, a decent looking chap and well known in the industry. He was good at his job. I found him a bit arrogant and big-headed.
“He was allowed to work within feet of children, he served at their parties.”
On its website TGI Friday's makes much of its children friendly atmosphere.
Under a picture of beaming children sporting party hats, the company pledges: “Our restaurants are the perfect place for a celebration – come party with us and get a Fridays birthday treat!”
Tsouvallaris was certainly a man with an eye for public relations.
A pen portrait on Flair Inc’s website states: “Dave has been bartending for over 12 years, starting at TGI Friday’s in Sutton Coldfield and worked across the UK at various bars and for major events companies working at festivals including Leeds and Reading, Oasis concerts and worked with the Branson family.
"Dave has not only been responsible for the training of bartenders across a variety of big named venues, but also holds sales records as well as being placed fourth in the UK in the TGI Friday’s Flair Bartending Finals.”
A string of industry publications heaped praise on the cocktail king.
On February 9, 2016, he drew headlines for yet another high-profile challenge. The report states: “First up, Dave Tsouvallaris from TGI Friday’s Sutton Coldfield and FlairIncorporated.com performing on the Flair Incorporated bar.”
By then, he was a sex offender.
In September, 2018, he posed, wreathed in smiles, for the cameras after scooping Be At One’s coveted Bartender Challenge.
One trade magazine trumpeted: Dave Tsouvallaris from Birmingham has been crowned the winner of the Be At One Bartender Challenge 2018.
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“Open to all bartenders, the annual challenge is a company-wide initiative that celebrates the talent and hard work of all Be At One staff.”
In a Q&A to herald the opening of 63rd and First bar, he informed a community website: “Our bar is almost certainly the smallest in Leicester so expect cosy! We’re big on cocktails and banter, so expect fun!”
Despite his criminal history, Tsouvallaris became the mouthpiece for Leicester publicans, struggling during lockdown.
He told the city’s leading newspaper last June: “Although we obviously understand the decision, and people’s health should be our top priority, hospitality businesses need more financial support if we are not able to open on July 4. Loans are not a viable option to replace loss of earnings.
“The Government and local council need to consider some form of extra support such as top-up grants for hospitality businesses if they refuse to let us open.”
Tsouvallaris was not a man to hide in the shadows.
The dapper deviant was the subject of less positive prose following his appearance at Northampton Crown Court.
The impact on his victim, groomed in Northamptonshire, was “horrific”, judge Adrienne Lucking told the court.
Tsouvallaris had inflicted “serious psychological harm” on her.
The judge told him: “You knew she was 12 years of age at the time that you proceeded to groom her by way of text messages and social media. You then carried on that activity in both collecting her in a car, taking her to a park, and then touching her in a sexual manner.
“The consequences for this family have been horrendous. She was too scared to leave her house. She began to self-harm and take overdoses. The impact was horrific.
“She has continued to this day to suffer from the difficulties that were occasioned by your behaviour and your offences towards her.”
She added: “Less than three years later, you committed this offence. You have committed these offences, despite all of the treatment that was offered to you.
“This is an escalation of your offending against children. There was a significant disparity in age between the two.”
Jonathan Dunne, prosecuting, said Tsouvallaris told his latest victim that he was 18.
He also used the alias “Dan” after initially contacting her over Instagram before they had conversations via texts.
The victim’s mother said she noticed a change in her daughter during the school holidays of 2018 when she became “withdrawn” and “stayed in her bedroom most of the time”.
In a victim impact statement, the girl said: “It’s wreaking havoc upon me and the whole event caused a massive effect on my mental health. I was too scared to leave my house.
“I felt disgusted with myself. I felt as though it was my fault. I brought this upon myself, that I was the reason it happened. I turned to self-harm as a way of punishing myself for this.
“I hated myself for it. I shut myself away. Nearly three years later, I’m still struggling. My mental health is still in a bad place and my self-harming is still happening.”
Sukhdev Garcha, defending, said Tsouvallaris “acknowledged the gravity of his actions”.
He said: “It seems that, at the time of the offending, he was drinking in excess.”
A spokesperson for TGI Fridays said: “We are unable to comment on an individual employee or share confidential employee information, even though the individual in question no longer works for the business.
“We take the safety of our customers and staff very seriously and to that end ensure our hiring practices are fully compliant with all legal requirements.”
No one was available for comment at Be At One when approached by the Sunday Mercury.
Daily Star has approached TGI for a response.
If you or somebody you know has been affected by this story, contact Victim Support for free, confidential advice on 0845 30 30 900 or visit their website, www.victimsupport.org.uk.
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