Trump Files Motion to Dismiss Cork Wine Bar Lawsuit

The President's legal team says he has immunity.

Photo of the Trump International Hotel by Jeff Elkins

President Trump‘s lawyers filed a motion to dismiss an unfair competition lawsuit from Cork Wine Bar alleging that the his continued affiliation with his DC hotel puts competing businesses at a disadvantage.

Cork Wine Bar owners Khalid Pitts and Diane Gross filed their suit in March, claiming they’re losing business from foreign dignitaries, lobbyists, government officials, and others who want to curry favor from the President by spending money at the Trump Organization’s hotel in the Old Post Office building.The restaurateurs aren’t seeking money, but they are asking the court to order Trump to divest from the hotel, resign his office, or take some other action that would end what they allege is unfair competition.

The Trump team has called the suit a “wild publicity stunt.” In a motion to dismiss, filed today, Trump’s lawyers reject the idea that holding a position of political power can lead to unfair competition and argue that the President is immune from claims based on his office. “Just as the President should not have to fear that individuals will hold him personally liable for what he ultimately decides to do as President, neither should he have to fear personal liability simply because he is the President,” they write. “But that is what the complaint seeks.”

Gross retorts that their arguments have nothing to do with Trump’s performance as president. “Presidential immunity is not intended to shield people from personal acts—a neighborhood restaurant being damaged by another business— and that’s what the complaint is all about.”

Meanwhile, the Washington Business Journal cites an anonymous source this afternoon saying that Cork Wine Bar plans to close later this year and combine its wine bar with its market across the street. Gross says that’s not true, at least not at this time. She’s not sure who the anonymous source could be.

“We have no definitive plans to move to the market right now,” Gross says. She explains their 10-year lease is about to be up, and they’re in the middle of renegotiating it. They’ve filed permits that would allow them to move if they wanted to. “We’re keeping all of our options open because we obviously want to be around for a while… But we have no definitive plans right now.”

Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.