On Wednesday, Cork Wine Bar owners Khalid Pitts and Diane Gross filed an unfair competition lawsuit against President Trump and the Trump International Hotel in D.C., which opened in October, alleging that his continued affiliation with property has turned business away from their restaurant.
Gross told the Washington Post, “We have events we do here for elected officials, nonprofits, foreign dignitaries, the World Bank, law firms. … Those folks are now being courted to come [to the Trump hotel] and want to go there because they see it as advantageous to them to curry favor with the president.
One of the Cork Wine Bar’s attorneys, Scott Rome, told reporters that government officials, nonprofits, lobbyists, elected officials, foreign dignitaries–among the restaurant’s clientele–are now “feeling pressure” to stay at the Trump International Hotel.
“If they have a party to book, they’re going to book it there first, whether to gain influence with the president, to gain influence with the administration,” Rome claims. “And he shows up there on weekends, so you get personal face time by going there. It seems to us to be a clear situation in which he’s using his office of the president to get a financial gain at the expense of local businesses.”
The Washingtonian reports that the Cork Wine Bar noticed its dining, catering and events business was “significantly less” after Trump was inaugurated compared to what they experienced in 2009. In the wake of Trump taking office, the co-owners said, “We feel like every place in town now is second place if you want to do business with the government in any way.”
“We do lose bookings sometimes and nobody ever gives you a reason. They don’t say, ‘We’re going to the Trump hotel instead of coming here.’ We do know that business has been a little slower with the inauguration of this president,” Gross said.
The co-owners did not cite any specific client they knowingly lost to Trump.
The complaint cites Trump’s appearances at the hotel, its hosting of foreign embassies and White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s comments saying, shortly before the inauguration: “It’s an absolutely stunning hotel. I encourage you to go there if you haven’t been by.”
Eric Trump dismissed the lawsuit as a “publicity stunt.” He said, “It’s people who have nothing better to do, so they harass and they harass and the [court] will throw it out…It’s ridiculous.”
Pitts is politically active and is registered as a Democrat while Gross is a lawyer by trade and worked under former Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski. Despite their left-leaning stance, they denied their political views swayed their decision to take legal action against Trump.
The Cork Wine Bar owners claim they are not seeking, but rather insist that Trump’s D.C. hotel close its doors while he serves as president.
— CorkDC (@CorkDC) March 5, 2017
Wine bar owners sue President Trump, saying D.C. hotel unfairly takes away business https://t.co/AprcCAvFtj
— Washington Post (@washingtonpost) March 9, 2017
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