Food

Donald Trump Sues Geoffrey Zakarian For Canceling Old Post Office Hotel Restaurant

He's hitting New York-based Geoffrey Zakarian with a $10 million suit.
Photograph by Flickr user Michael Vadon.

Four days after suing José Andrés in federal court over the chef’s decision to back out of a planned restaurant at the Old Post Office, Donald Trump is suing the other restaurateur it recruited to create an eatery at its forthcoming hotel in the Pennsylvania Avenue landmark.

Trump’s company slapped New York-based toque Geoffrey Zakarian with a $10 million lawsuit in DC Superior Court on Monday, accusing Zakarian of breaking his contract to open a brasserie called the National. Like Andrés, Zakarian announced last month he would pull out of the hotel because of Trump’s anti-immigrant statements during his campaign for the Republican Party’s 2016 presidential nomination. Trump, who has led consistently in national polls of Republican primary voters, will be at the center of a 10-candidate stage at the race’s first debate Thursday night.

“The recent statements surrounding Mexican immigrants by Donald Trump do not in any way align with my personal core values,” Zakarian told the New York Times when announced he would cancel his restaurant. In the first speech of his campaign, Trump referred to undocumented immigrants as “rapists and criminals.”

The suit against Zakarian, which was first reported by National Law Journal, echoes the one filed against Andrés. In the complaint, Trump’s lawyers argue that Zakarian was likely aware of the loud, lattice-haired developer’s views on border security.

“Mr. Zakarian’s offense is curious in light of the fact that Mr. Trump’s publicly shared views on immigration have remained consistent for many years, and Mr. Trump’s willingness to frankly share his opinions is widely known,” the document reads.

And, just as the Andrés suit quoted the DC chef’s previous praise for Trump, the one against Zakarian does, too: “Notwithstanding Mr. Trump’s well-known frankness, on May 4, 2015, Mr. Zakarian was quoted as saying, ‘The Trumps are world-class developers and hoteliers with an unparalleled commitment to excellence, and I am honored to work with them on such an iconic project in the heart of Washington, DC,’ ” the complaint reads.

Trump’s legal team also writes that Zakarian’s restaurant group sent the Trump Organization a letter July 17, claiming that Trump’s campaign-announcement speech “materially interfered with Mr. Zakarian’s ability to perform” under what was supposed to be a 20-year arrangement. The complaint states that the Trump Organization responded twice. The first reply came July 21, in a Notice of Default because Zakarian’s group had not submitted construction documents on-schedule. On Monday, before the suit was filed, Trump’s firm told Zakarian’s company the sublease for the National was canceled and that the hotel will attempt to “find a new first-class restaurant.”

Zakarian’s side has not yet responded to the suit. Last weekend, Andrés’s company, ThinkFoodGroup called Trump’s lawsuit against it “unsurprising and without merit.

“Simply put, Mr. Trump’s comments made ThinkFoodGroup’s participation in this project impossible and constituted a breach which the landlord, Trump Old Post Office LLC, refused to remedy,” ThinkFoodGroup’s statement read.

Trump’s suit against Zakarian is scheduled to have its first hearing in DC Superior Court on November 6.

Trump v Cz National Zakarian

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Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.