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Uptown’s Tank Noodle Must Pay Back $150K Pandemic Grant After Breaking Federal Labor Laws, State Says

Tank Noodle was fined $700,000 by the federal government for skirting wage laws. Now, it must give back a state pandemic business grant.

Tank Noodle
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UPTOWN — After being accused of federal labor law violations, including not paying wages and forcing employees to work only for tips, Uptown’s Tank Noodle now has to pay back a six-figure emergency grant meant to help Illinois businesses survive the pandemic, state officials confirmed.

Tank Noodle will have to return the $150,000 business interruption grant it received from the state of Illinois last year. The popular Vietnamese restaurant at 4953 N. Broadway violated the terms of the state grant program by running afoul of federal labor laws, said Lauren Huffman, spokesperson for the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO).

“After a review of Tank Noodle’s grant, DCEO has found them in violation and has requested the return of the award,” Huffman said. “DCEO is actively working with the business owner to develop a payment plan to recover these funds. We continue to remind all business owners to remain compliant with the terms of their grant agreement as any violations could put their grant status at risk.”

Tank Noodle received the $150,000 grant in September 2020.

The mandate to return the grant money comes weeks after Tank Noodle also was forced to pay almost $700,000 in back wages to employees it didn’t adequately compensate, federal investigators found as part of a two-year investigation.

Tank Noodle withheld pay and used illegal employment practices for 60 of its employees, a labor department investigation concluded. In addition to making servers work for tips, a violation of federal work laws, the investigation also found Tank Noddle shorted servers when the business pooled tips and divided the money among all staff, including management.

Tank Noodle’s owners did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

It’s the latest controversy for the Asia on Argyle restaurant.

The restaurant drew ire from customers after its owners attended a Jan. 6 rally in support of former President Donald Trump that ended in the storming of the U.S. Capitol.

The Ly family, which owns Tank Noodle, posted photos from the rally, which were widely circulated on social media. Calls for boycotts quickly grew, and the restaurant’s management and staff received death threats, owners told The Today Show.

Tank Noodle management acknowledged owners attended the rally but claimed they left after it concluded and did not take part in the breach of the Capitol.

“We understand that some of our customers have strong feelings about what happened last Wednesday,” business management wrote on Facebook. “We share your feelings and respect your opinions. If you choose to take your business elsewhere, we are sorry to lose you and thank you for your business.”

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