On Wednesday, D.C. wine bar owners Khalid Pitts and Diane Gross filed suit against the president’s hotel company, claiming Trump International Hotel has an unfair competitive advantage that has damaged their business.
Pitts and Gross are represented pro bono by a legal defense team that includes Alan B. Morrison, who co-founded the Public Citizen Litigation Group with Ralph Nader in 1972, according to The Washington Post. Pitts and Gross allege that the people who once filled their event space have now moved their crowds to a location with ties to the highest office in the land:
“We have events we do here for elected officials, nonprofits, foreign dignitaries, the World Bank, law firms,” Gross said. “Those folks are now being courted to come and want to go there because they see it as advantageous to them to curry favor with the president.”
They’re not seeking compensatory damages. Rather, they’re asking for an order to bar the hotel from operating as long as Trump owns it. Trump made a big to-do about “resigning” from his business ventures before his inauguration, a gesture that meant essentially nothing. The hotel has been handed over to his son Eric Trump, who told the Washington Post that the suit was a “publicity stunt,” adding, “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 and Gross have no clear proof that the Trump International Hotel is directly impacting their business, though sales have slowed since the inauguration. Their space is also not comparable in size to the hotel’s ballroom. But Pitt said, “This is a company town and the business is the government.
“We have people, individuals, companies in the U.S. and around the world who do business with the government,” he continued, “And the business leader of the government is the president of the United States.”