Tank Noodle restaurant in Chicago has to return a $150,000 state grant after officials say owners lied on the application about breaking the law.
The restaurant, which was the subject of a U.S. Department of Labor investigation announced last month, must pay back the Business Interruption Grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity, according to a department spokesperson.
“After a review of Tank Noodle’s grant, DCEO has found them in violation and has requested the return of the award,” the department said in a statement. “DCEO is actively working with the business owner to develop a payment plan to recover these funds.”
The BIG program, the largest of its kind in the country, was developed to help small businesses hit hardest by COVID-19. The average grant award was $30,000. Business owners were meant to use the money for essential expenses, such as payroll.
According to the state, all businesses were required to certify they were in compliance with local and federal laws at the time of application. Grantees also were asked to certify their business had no “lawsuits, claims, suits, proceedings or investigations pending to their knowledge, and also that they are not subject to any criminal investigations or charges.”
The news comes following a federal investigation into owed wages to 60 employees spanning a two-year period. In March, the U.S. Department of Labor revealed that Tank Noodle’s owners had agreed to pay nearly $700,000 in back wages to the workers.
The department notified owners about the investigation in October, one month after it applied for the grant, officials said. The BIG recipients were chosen in November.
In January, the owners of the Vietnamese restaurant in the Uptown neighborhood posted photos on social media while on a flight to Washington, D.C., and attending the “Save America Rally.” Following thousands of critical comments and national news coverage, they posted again days later to say that none of their friends or family participated in the storming of the United States Capitol building.
Tank Noodle recently posted a help wanted notice on its Facebook page April 1, seeking servers and offering $8.40 per hour. The hourly offer is the minimum wage for tipped workers required for Chicago employers with at least 21 workers.
The restaurant owners could not immediately be reached for comment Friday.
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