MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Sitting at a café table along Nicollet Avenue Thursday, restaurant owner Thom Pham spoke openly about the travails of the business.

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“Every day you wake up and try to do your best and do what you can, but sometimes your best is not good enough,” he said.

Since coming to America from Vietnam and opening his first Asian fusion restaurant, Thanh Do in 1999, Pham has been on a fast track.

But now his most recent venture is locked and closed. The popular Wondrous Azian Kitchen in downtown Minneapolis didn’t have the steady flow of customers to keep it open.

“It’s never fun, and it’s never easy. As you know, the restaurant business is one of the hardest businesses out there,” Pham said.

But Pham’s problems have been piling up for a number of years. Three of his restaurants owed more than $164,000 in unpaid sales taxes to the Department of Revenue. Pham isn’t sure of the current amount owed, but he acknowledges that he is still chipping away by making monthly payments.

“We are under a payment plan now. So, yes, it is taken care of,” he said.

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Pham was set to open a new venture, Azia Market Bar and Restaurant at 26th and Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis, but he recently sold his interest to his longtime business partner.

Instead, he’ll design the restaurant’s menu and serve as a consultant.

But Pham’s immediate challenge is staying out of jail. A warrant was issued for Pham’s arrest when he failed to show up Sept. 11 in Mille Lacs County Court to answer a felony charge of issuing worthless checks to the restaurant supplier A-Z Restaurant Supply in Princeton. The company’s owner claims he is owed some $30,000 for delivered equipment. He claims two checks later bounced.

Pham says he’s taking care of the matter and blames part of it on his absence over the summer.

“In June, I was in Vietnam visiting my mother,” he said. “In July, I moved and didn’t get my mail; I missed it.”

Pham’s attorney says they are in the process of gathering the bail money to prevent his client from being arrested. He also said he is looking forward to a new court date.

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Pham added: “The restaurant business is not the business you get into to make money, or to get rich off.”