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October 21, 2009

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Yao link to no-wages restaurant ruled out

AN employee of a city restaurant - an outlet that used basketball star Yao Ming's fame, and name, to advertise - is demanding that the eatery coughs up 100,000 yuan (US$14,648) in unpaid wages to 30 staff members after it closed last week.

While Yao's name was used, his management team said he had no link to the apparently bankrupt restaurant.

Restaurant employee Wang Junkun said he had complained to Jing'an District's Labor Dispute Arbitration Committee and was awaiting a response.

The Yeeha Texas BBQ & Sports Bar on Huashan Road near Jing'an Temple, known as Yao Restaurant in Chinese characters, was closed last Friday over a financial dispute between its owners, a city newspaper reported yesterday.

Wang said staff had been calling the boss since the closure and received no answer.

Xu Liang, a waiter, said he was shocked on Friday when he went to work and saw the empty space.

"I thought it was robbed. Everything worth any money was gone, including food, wine and TV sets," Xu said.

Xu said the restaurant had apparently been in financial trouble since it opened three years ago.

It had even rented its ground floor to another restaurant.

Most people who have been to the Yeeha said on an online dining forum that it always seemed empty and criticized the service.

Some Yeeha staff members turned up several days ago seeking wages, a cashier of the first-floor restaurant told Shanghai Daily yesterday.

"Some tried to break into the restaurant but withdrew after I threatened to call security," the cashier said.

Zhang Mingji of Team Yao, said Yao Ming had nothing to do with the failed restaurant.

Yet the big signboard featuring Yao is still hanging on the restaurant's facade.

There was a notice on the door of the outlet saying the restaurant was undergoing internal decorations and would reopen on November 1.

Zhang said the owner of the restaurant is Yu Di, a major shareholder of the Yao Restaurant & Bar in Houston, Texas. Zhang said the restaurant in Shanghai should not be named Yao as neither Yao Ming nor Yao's family was involved in the business.

An unnamed source said Yu was involved in a financial dispute and had sold the restaurant to Zhao Yue, a veteran in the catering business.

Zhao confirmed the transaction and the dispute but said the restaurant would reopen in November as promised.

Lawyers representing Yu's company said they were handling the dispute.


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