Geoffrey Zakarian Joins José Andrés in Settling Trump Lawsuit
Notice of the settlement came late yesterday.
Apparently, the Trump Organization believes it has bigger fish to fry than facing extended legal battles against the chefs who decided to do their fish frying elsewhere. Just days after settling a lawsuit with José Andrés, the Trump team—now led by his sons Donald Jr. and Eric—settled a similar legal battle with restauranteur and Food Network star Geoffrey Zakarian. The two settlements finally lay to rest nearly two years of legal wrangling after then-candidate Donald Trump’s derogatory statements about Mexican immigrants led both chefs to back out of their commitments to open restaurants in the then-forthcoming Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC.
Zakarian, along with partner Louis Ceruzzi, had originally agreed to open a restaurant in the upmarket hotel back in May of 2015. However, that June, Trump dropped his immediately infamous “They’re rapists” comments when referring to Mexican immigrants. By July, Zakarian announced he would be following in José Andrés’ footsteps, quickly backing away from the project, claiming that those statements doomed any chance of running a successful restaurant in the Trump-branded property. Trump sued Zakarian, initially for $10 million, citing expected losses, before eventually raising the number to $14 million. Zakarian countersued.
As recently as this January, it appeared the two sides were at an impasse; however, statements made after yesterday’s settlement announcement were surprisingly upbeat. “After an intense, two-year legal battle, we are pleased we were able to amicably resolve our differences and wish Geoffrey continued success,” read a statement from Donald Trump Jr. according to the Washington Post. Ceruzzi struck a similar tone. “I am glad that we were able to work together cooperatively to put this matter behind us and wish Trump International the very best success going forward,” he was quoted as saying.
Meanwhile, Zakarian himself seemed more interested in focusing on the future. “With the recent opening of our new restaurant, Point Royal, in Fort Lauderdale as well as several other new restaurants in the pipeline … 2017 is already shaping up to be a hugely successful year for us,” the chef said according to Eater.
Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.
The loss of Zakarian may especially string for the Trump Organization: The hotel was never able to find another restaurateur to fill the space, and it’s now nothing more than an extra ballroom and meeting place.