December 4, 2023

After Presidency, Trump Hotel in Washington Is a Limited Draw

WASHINGTON — Congress was in session. The White House has been humming with activity for…

After Presidency, Trump Hotel in Washington Is a Limited Draw

WASHINGTON — Congress was in session. The White House has been humming with activity for the past few days.

This would normally mean a busy time for the 263-room Trump International Hotel, which is just a few blocks away. But on two evenings this week, the famed lobby that drew so many lobbyists, White House officials and Trump supporters over the past four years was largely vacant. The waiters and staff members outnumbered the customers.

Part of it, of course, is the coronavirus pandemic, which has affected hotels and restaurants in Washington and around the nation. Current regulations limit indoor dining to 25 percent capacity in Washington.

Until last Friday, indoor dining had been banned. The hotel’s lobby, as well as its two restaurants, was closed, although the hotel itself remained open to a very limited number of customers checking in. The bar was still closed this week.

On Tuesday night, in a section of the lobby with dozens of tables serviced by Benjamin Bar and Lounge, there were eight to 11 customers.

“It is a hard time with Covid,” said one of several patrons in the hotel lobby, who was there having a drink. She said she worked on energy-related issues in an office across the street. She declined to give her name.

BLT Prime by David Burke — a steakhouse in the mezzanine of the lobby — had several tables of customers Tuesday evening. And Sushi Nakazawa, a third restaurant at the hotel, was scheduled to reopen Wednesday evening.

Mickael Damelincourt, the hotel’s manager, was upbeat as he milled around the lobby on Tuesday.

“We are doing very well, considering the current restrictions,” he said. “We are looking forward to welcoming many travelers back to D.C. over the next few months.”

Mr. Damelincourt personally greeted what appeared to be the only guest who arrived to check in over two hours on Tuesday evening. The hotel’s ground-floor elevators saw little traffic during that time.

A Brioni Bespoke store, selling custom-made suits for thousands of dollars, also sat empty except for the store clerk, who perked up when a reporter looked in. Large carts carrying extra supplies of Veuve Clicquot sat off to the side of the lobby, untouched.

A financial disclosure report that former President Donald J. Trump released last week covering 2020 showed a 63 percent decline in revenue at the Trump hotel in Washington, dropping to $15.1 million. In an interview last week, Eric Trump, the former president’s son and the executive vice president of the Trump Organization, attributed the revenue loss to the pandemic and the city’s policies forcing the closure of the restaurants and bar.

Across the street from the hotel, Fogo de Chão, a Brazilian steakhouse, was doing much brisker business.

“People have been itching to get some Brazilian steak,” said Armando Tello, the manager.

The only prominent Trump allies in sight inside the hotel on two recent nights were on large televisions broadcasting Fox News and CNN into the nearly empty lobby.

“Breaking News: Senators Sworn In for Trump’s Historic 2nd Impeachment Trial,” the chyron on the CNN screen said on Tuesday.

Mr. Trump’s family had tried in 2019 to sell the lease to the hotel in Washington. The historic building — the second tallest in the city — is owned by the federal government and is still known as the Old Post Office, from when it used to serve as the headquarters of the agency. A contract sets rent for the building at about $270,000 a month.

There was at least some good news for Mr. Trump in the past week. The Supreme Court dismissed two lawsuits filed against him early in his tenure as president claiming that Mr. Trump was illegally accepting payments from foreign governments at the hotel and other venues he owns, a violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution.

With Mr. Trump now out of office, the Supreme Court had deemed those lawsuits moot.