The owners of a wine bar in Washington, D.C. are suing President Donald Trump, alleging his restaurant—located inside the newly opened Trump International Hotel—is costing their bar and other local establishments business.
Cork Wine Bar co-owners Diane Gross and Khalid Pitts announced the suit at a press conference yesterday. (The suit was filed Wednesday.) "We feel that the president of the United States, owning a hotel, owning restaurants, promoting those restaurants, is unfair and to the detriment of other businesses in the city," Pitts said. The Trump Hotel restaurant opened in last fall.
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The suit doesn’t specify just how much revenue the wine bar has lost in the wake of Trump’s restaurant opening, but does mention that the bar, which Food & Wine named one of the best in the country, has lost the business of prominent events it once hosted—such as dinners for the ambassador of Azerbaijan.What’s perhaps even more interesting, the suit reveals, is that Trump shouldn’t technically be allowed to own the restaurant now that he’s been elected president. According to the federal General Services Administration lease agreement for the hotel, which is housed in the Old Post Office Building, no elected official can be on the lease or benefit from it.
Of course, when Trump entered into the agreement in 2012, he wasn’t president—he wasn’t even campaigning. But now that he’s been elected, the suit says, he should be forced to forfeit the lease or close the restaurant until he’s no longer in office. Gross and Pitts aren’t seeking financial compensation.
When NPR asked for a comment on the issue, the GSA declined to give one. And when press secretary Sean Spicer was asked yesterday to address the lawsuit, he dodged the question, only reiterating the White House’s stance that the president is not covered by the federal conflicts of interest law, NPR reports.
“You know, obviously, the president has made very clear in that December press conference at Trump Tower, he doesn't have conflicts and he's done everything in accordance with the guidance that he's been given and gone well beyond what he ever needed to do," Spicer said.