Tank Noodle, a Vietnamese restaurant in Chicago, is being bombarded by hate mail and threats after its owners attended the “Save America” rally in Washington D.C. on Wednesday. Its owners, Thu and Thuc Ly, and their son and the general manager of the restaurant, Thien Ly, all attended the rally by plane. They returned to Chicago by Thursday, Thien Ly told TODAY Food.
Hundreds of people shared screenshots on all social media platforms of Thu Ly’s post from the rally, which was originally shared on Facebook by Thien’s sister, Gwen Ly. Screenshots were also shared of a selfie posted to Facebook by Thien Ly of him and his father, Thuc Ly, on the plane to Chicago.
“Jan#6 Get Wild! #fightfortrump,” Thien Ly's caption said.
Thien Ly, 33, verified the screenshots to TODAY, saying he traveled to Washington, D.C. with his parents, his mother-in-law, and a family friend for the rally. Thien Ly said the group was unaware of the violence occurring at the Capitol during the time they were at the rally at the White House. He said they had not gone to the Capitol and only attended the rally.
"We’re not violent people and it’s horrifying to see what happened at the Capitol," he told TODAY. "It’s a sad day for the country. We’re in disbelief about what’s going on right now."
Now, Thien Ly says, ownership and the restaurant's employees are getting death threats over the phone and on social media.
“I’m being labeled a terrorist for attending the rally,” he said. “We’re getting death threats called in to the restaurant, people threatening my employees, people saying they’re gonna burn down our restaurant.”
His sister arrived to open the restaurant on Friday morning and found a shotgun shell casing sitting in front of the store.
Thien Ly deactivated his Facebook profile and the Facebook page of Tank Noodle because he was receiving so many death threats, he told TODAY.
“Coming back from this experience, I don’t know anymore,” he said. “We’re immigrants, my parents are immigrants. They fled persecution of this type coming from Vietnam because if you have a different belief, that’s not allowed. We love this country, they came here with nothing and they were able to build their own business and put myself through college and have some kind of normalcy.”
The staff is concerned about carrying the restaurant through the pandemic, he said.
“We had a great following, which now is probably going to get worse for us,” Thien Ly said. “We’ve been making it through just enough to keep our employees employed and pay our bills and stay afloat.”
People have also flooded the Tank Noodle Yelp page with 1-star reviews, causing Yelp to issue an alert on their page, warning people were posting "their views on the news rather than actual consumer experiences with the business."
"I do not want to spend my money at a place that is run by people who support white supremacist insurrectionists," one of the new reviews, posted Jan. 6, reads. "AVOID this place since the owners are coming back from the super spreader event."
The restaurant's most recent Instagram post also had hundreds of comments, both supporting Tank Noodle and against them.
"Freedom of speech is a thing!!!! It shouldn’t be my way or no way, y’all need to get over this stupid cancel culture and get a life," one person commented.
"Good luck finding new jobs, fascists," another wrote.
Thien Ly said he hopes his loyal customers keep coming and that the hate mail stops.
“I understand the political atmosphere in Chicago is different from us, but violence at this level, this kind of threat is unacceptable,” Ly said. “We don’t want any more violence.”