UPTOWN — Tank Noodle in Uptown already has been slapped with a six-figure federal fine and had to pay back a grant due to labor violations — but its case may not yet be closed, city officials said Thursday.
The popular Vietnamese restaurant, 4953 N. Broadway, was accused of violating federal labor laws and was forced to give 60 workers nearly $700,000 in back wages in March. Then, in April, it was ordered to return a $150,000 business interruption grant it’d received from the state.
The city has not yet penalized the business — but Andy Fox, head of the city’s Office of Labor Standards, said officials are “interested in looking at it.”
“Tank Noodle’s very egregious,” Fox said. “It’s very upsetting. … When we heard about, we said, ‘What’s happening there? What can we do?'”
The state’s labor department has looked at the business, too, Fox said.
But the city’s agencies has to manage a “balancing act,” Fox said: They don’t want to penalize Tank Noodle to the point it closes and workers are out of a job, but they do want to hold the owners responsible.
“And yes we’re interested in looking at it, but they’re under federal monitoring and this very prescriptive approach to prosecution,” Fox said. “I’m very interested in Tank Noodle. A lot of other state and federal partners are very interested in it.
“I don’t think we’ve closed a book on that yet.”
Fox was speaking at a Thursday news conference where officials announced two companies are being fined for not giving workers paid sick leave.
The restaurant has faced heavy criticism for months.
Tank Noodle withheld pay and used illegal employment practices for 60 of its employees, a federal 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.
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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