The staff at a local Chicago restaurant is receiving death threats after social media posts showed that Tank Noodle’s owners traveled to Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, January 5, to support President Donald Trump.
On Wednesday night, social media posts with photos of the owners of began surfacing on Twitter, showing them on a plane to the nation’s capital with the intention of participating in protests opposing Trump’s Election Day defeat to Joe Biden.
Wednesday’s rally in D.C. turned violent as Americans watched rioters breach the U.S. Capitol in an effort to disrupt Biden’s certification as president. Lawmakers were forced to evacuate, a woman was fatally shot, and three other people reportedly died in or near the Capitol. On Thursday, the House Committee on Homeland Security called the protest a domestic terrorist attack. As photographs and videos of the attempted coup circulated after crowds dispersed, Chicagoans began to recognize names and faces from local businesses.
One photo shows owners of Tank Noodle in their seats on an airplane bound for D.C. Multiple users have alleged that Henry Chang — the owner of Boystown Pan Asian restaurant Ping Pong, Japanese restaurant Wakamono, and late-night cocktail den Wang’s — is in the photo as well. Chang disputes his attendance, texting Eater Chicago that it wasn’t him. “I have only been home and work. I don’t support violence,” he writes. Chang did not respond to follow-up questions.
Users have flooded Tank Noodle account with posts condemning the restaurant owners’ support of Trump and a willingness to ignore COVID-19 safety by boarding a plane during the pandemic. A post from Tank Noodle’s associate manager, Thien Ly, shows him and and another man alongside an image of his United Airlines boarding pass with the caption “Jan#6 Get Wild! #fightfortrump.”
Chang’s personal Facebook page includes pro-Trump posts leading to commenters making similar critical posts on Ping Pong’s Yelp page.
A source close to Tank management confirms owners made the trip to D.C. The source also says the shop was “barely making it” during the pandemic. They say owners are worried that social media outrage will cause them to close their 21-year-old restaurant. But after Wednesday’s scene at the Capitol, many Chicagoans are aghast and don’t want to support anyone associated with the mobs in D.C.
General manager Gwen Ly’s Facebook page, public before Thursday, was switched to private, and comments critical of Tank are being deleted. Ownership has yet to return a message left with workers over the phone at the restaurant. Ly did not respond to an email sent Thursday morning by Eater Chicago.
A Tank Noodle worker who answered the phone Thursday tells Eater Chicago that staff received death threats by phone on Thursday morning. The worker says ownership has yet to talk to them about the situation. Meanwhile, the worker said they handled 15 threatening phone calls within the span of about 30 minutes, starting when the restaurant opened at 11 a.m.
“We’re afraid for our lives right now, we’re just trying to work and provide for our family,” the worker says. “[Staff] all have children, now they’re scared they won’t have a job.”
The restaurant’s Instagram account is packed with angry comments, with some veering into racist stereotypes of Asian restaurants. Ownership hasn’t hidden their support for Trump: Gwen Ly has made several posts supporting the outgoing president on her personal Facebook page. In a post dated Wednesday, Ly writes: “#saveamericarally I wasn’t there with my family but I’m supporting you guys in spirit!” Another post dated December 12 reads “#stopthesteal,” a reference to Trump’s debunked claims of election fraud, alongside a video of people standing around holding large Trump flags. The posts also include photos of Thu Ly holding an American flag amidst Trump supporters standing around the Washington Monument. Gwen Ly shut down public access to her Facebook posts around 11 a.m. on Thursday.
Commenters have turned to Yelp, littering the restaurant’s page with one-star reviews. In response, Yelp has issued an unusual activity alert and temporarily disabled posting to the page.
“l do not want to spend my money at a place that is run by people who support white supremacist insurrectionists,” one commenter writes. “Shame on the owners for supporting Trump and trying to undermine democracy. Trump has been incredibly harmful towards the Asian community and has caused so much death with his mishandling of the pandemic.”
“Since there are plenty of other good pho places on the same street, go to one of those places since their owners probably didn’t fly to DC to try to subvert democracy,” writes another commenter.
A Facebook event page invites the public to a virtual protest of Tank on Thursday night, emphasizing that the protest should remain peaceful.
Over on Ping Pong’s Yelp page, a commenter writes, “Ping Pong was my absolute favorite restaurant given their cuisine, however, the owner’s support and participation in committing acts of domestic terrorism at the Capitol in Washington DC on 1/6/2021 have made me re-evaluate and choose to never support this small business again.” Chang did not comment about the negative posts.
Beyond Yelp criticism, a worker singled out three phone calls she received Thursday morning from a man which caller ID revealed as Wade Greer, an outreach coordinator for the Illinois House of Representatives. The employee says she felt threatened by Greer, alleging that he told her that staff are “going to die” because they work at Tank, and that protesters would be coming to the restaurant. Greer did not respond to a Facebook message seeking comment, and he deactivated his account after Eater Chicago sent an inquiry. Before his LinkedIn profile was also taken down on Thursday morning, Greer was listed as working for State Rep. Kelly Cassidy’s office.
“Mr. Greer is a part time employee of the office who called this business to express his disgust with their political posts on his own time,” Cassidy writes to Eater Chicago. “While he denies making any threats, I have made clear that no member of my staff should use their position to threaten or intimidate anyone, regardless of how repugnant their views might be.”
Tank Noodle, also known as Pho Xe Tang, opened in 2000 and has become one of the city’s premier Vietnamese restaurants. It’s located in a prominent spot on the southeast corner of Broadway and Argyle, among a cluster of Vietnamese restaurants and businesses in the neighborhood. Ownership planned to open a new location last year at 4706-4710 W. Irving Park Road, but the outpost hasn’t materialized.
Ashok Selvam contributed reporting to this story.
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- José Andrés Set Up a Late-Night Emergency Kitchen to Feed Police in D.C. [Eater D.C.]
- Dallas-Based Pizza Inn Issues Bizarre Statement In Support of Trump’s Bogus Voter Fraud Claims [Eater Dallas]
- Trump supporters storm the US Capitol [Vox]
- How a “March for Trump” rally led to clashes at the Capitol [Vox]