The owners of a Washington restaurant are suing the Trump International Hotel over what they say is unfair competition, Washingtonian reported Thursday.
An attorney for Cork Wine Bar, which sits about a mile and a half from the hotel, says visiting foreign leaders, diplomats, government officials and lobbyists are going to the property owned by President Trump's family to curry favor and influence in the Trump administration.
“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,” attorney Scott Rome told Washingtonian. “And he shows up there on weekends, so you get personal face time by going there.”
Cork Wine Bar has seen a significant decrease in revenue since Trump’s inauguration in January, Rome said, putting other businesses “in second place” when it comes to hosting guests involved in government business.
Cork Wine Bar's owners, Diane Gross and Khalid Pitts, have backgrounds in the political world.
Pitts is a former campaign director for Service Employees International Union and political director for the Sierra Club, an environmental group that has publicly opposed Trump. Gross previously worked as legal counsel to former Sen. Barbara MikulskiBarbara MikulskiDems press for paycheck fairness bill on Equal Pay Day After 30 years celebrating women’s history, have we made enough progress? DC restaurant owners sue Trump hotel over unfair competition: report MORE (D-Md.).
The Trump International Hotel in D.C. has been a flashpoint for Trump. News of foreign dignitaries flocking to the hotel after Trump’s electoral win in November have spurred questions about whether the business is a violation of the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause prohibiting foreign influence.
Rome told Washingtonian that Cork Wine Bar’s lawyers are talking to other businesses, setting up the possibility of more plaintiffs filing suits against the Trump hotel.
Two celebrity chefs, Geoffrey Zakarian and José Andrés, are also locked in a legal battle with Trump, who is suing for breach of contract after the chefs canceled plans to open restaurants in the hotel.