Ming Lian Zhou, 57, the former owner of Hong Kong Lounge I and Hong Kong Lounge II, was indicted in court last week for allegedly making false statements to a government agency and threatening his employees with economic harm. Zhou allegedly underpaid 48 employees by more than $90,000 and then threatened them to return back pay, The Chronicle reported. According to court documents, in 2012, the U.S. Labor Department ordered Zhou to pay the money back, but he failed to do so even after submitting signed documents to the Labor Department saying that he had. Zhou also allegedly instructed the employees to tell the Labor Department the money had been paid. Once the Labor Department found that out, they ordered him to pay the money directly to them so they could then hand out the back pay to the employees. Zhou then ordered the employees to cash the checks and return the back pay to him, according to documents, firing employees who would not and cutting hours of others. If convicted, Zhou could face up to 25 years in prison.
Hong Kong Lounge II received a three-star review from Michael Bauer in 2014, after Zhou was no longer affiliated with the restaurant, according to current owner Annie Ho (though his name is still on its liquor license). Ho's lawyer told the San Francisco Business Times that, "There are no allegations against Ms. Ho concerning her management of Hong Kong Lounge II. Though the two restaurants share the same name, they are run entirely independent of one another. Her staff receives full benefits and are always paid in accordance to federal overtime provisions and the Fair Labor Standards Act. Ms. Ho has familiarized herself with the rules and regulations of the Act to ensure compliance, which is in part why her restaurant was named (in the San Francisco Chronicle's) Top 100 restaurants in 2015." The charges call to mind a recent similar case at Yank Sing, which paid $4 million in back wages to more than 280 current and former employees in 2014 after a labor dispute.