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The Trump Hotel’s Liquor License Is Being Protested Again Over the President’s Character

This time around, the license is up for renewal—and that may have consequences

Photo of the Trump International Hotel by Jeff Elkins

Last summer, a group of religious leaders and judges filed a complaint with the DC liquor board pushing to revoke the alcohol-serving privileges of the Trump International Hotel. They argued that the business’s owner—you know, the President—didn’t meet a “good character” provision required of liquor license holders by DC law.

The DC liquor board, however, never held a hearing to address the merits of the argument. In September, Alcoholic Beverage Control Board chairman Donovan Anderson said that the board didn’t usually hold such hearings unless the liquor license was up for renewal, which it wasn’t at the time. This spring, however, it is up for renewal, and the same group is now back to stop it.

The complaint comes from the same three reverends, two rabbis, and two judges as the last time and is backed by the Campaign for Accountability and Transparency Inc., a nonprofit funded and run by an Arizona Republican and philanthropist named Jerry Hirsch.

“Last fall, the Board said the time to take up the question of Mr. Trump’s character would come when the hotel seeks a renewal of the license.  That time has come. The hotel has applied for renewal, and no reasonable person could find that Mr. Trump is ‘of good character,'” the group’s attorney, Joshua A. Levy, says in an email statement. “Whether it’s the thousands of lies he’s told, the criminal hush money payments to women, his emoluments issue, his racism and xenophobia, or his alleged sexual assault over a dozen women, Mr. Trump does not meet the statutory requirement of “good character.”

Levy sent a letter to the liquor board today, along with the original 27-page complaint, which details Trump’s propensity to lie, accusations of sexual assault, business associations with known criminals, and racist comments.

A spokesperson for the Trump hotel did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The case will put to test how “good character” is defined by the DC liquor board. In past cases, the provision has been invoked in situations related to alcohol operations, such as serving minors or violent incidents on premises. Attorney Ed Grandis, who has no affiliation with the Trump hotel case, previously told Washingtonian that in his 25 years dealing with restaurant liquor licenses in DC he’d never seen one denied or revoked solely based of the owner’s character. The provision usually only comes up in the context of other violations.

Even some at odds with the President are wary of the precedent a revocation of the hotel’s liquor license could set. Restaurant attorney Scott Rome, who sued the hotel on behalf of Cork Wine Bar in an unrelated unfair competition lawsuit, says it lead to a slippery slope.

“You worry about it creeping in for someone not as horrible as Trump who they just don’t like for whatever reason,” Rome told Washingtonian. “You could just point to someone’s public statements and say, ‘They don’t have the character to hold a license.’ That’s not something you would typically want.”

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.