Tank Noodle, the Vietnamese restaurant that ignited a firestorm after its owners in January traveled to Washington, D.C. to participate in a rally to support former President Donald Trump, was forced by the federal government to pay nearly $700,000 in back wages owed to 60 workers. Federal authorities say Tank Noodle paid some servers with only tips, “failing to pay them any direct wages, as the law requires.” Those tips were also garnished as management pooled tips and illegally split a share off for themselves, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Labor.
The Labor Department notified the restaurant of its findings on October 14. Management signed an agreement to pay out the $697,295 federal authorities said it owed on December 7. Management could not be reached for comment. Staff deactivated the restaurant’s Facebook page around 1:25 p.m. on Wednesday as news from the Labor Department spread.
Ownership from the Uptown restaurant also ignored federal overtime requirements by paying workers daily with flat amounts, according to the Labor Department, which also alleged that management also failed to accurately log worker hours. Employees who work more than 40 hours per week are entitled to overtime pay.
Members of the ownership team posted photos in January of themselves riding on a plane flying to D.C. to attend the January 6 rally that would turn violent. That made the restaurant the target of a whirlwind of controversy as the rally led to a violent uprising when rioters breached the U.S. Capitol.
Four days after the photos came to light, members of the Ly family publicly condemned and denied participation in the violence that followed the pro-Trump event. “The nation needs healing and we will do our part to do the work,” they wrote in a now-deleted Facebook post. “We ask the same of our fellow community members.”
But before their response, users flooded the restaurant’s accounts and review pages with comments condemning their support for Trump and presence at the rally. Restaurant staff at the time told Eater Chicago that they received numerous threatening phone calls that left them fearful for their jobs and personal safety.
Tank Noodle opened in 2000 as Pho Xe Tang. It occupies a prominent corner at Broadway and Argyle, a gateway for many Vietnamese businesses in Chicago. The restaurant is known for its pho.