Food

Where Will the President’s Supporters Hang Out If the Trump Hotel’s Lease Is Sold?

Harry's? Cafe Milano? Or maybe a Sean Spicer Disco...

Photo by Jeff Elkins

At least a couple times a week, you can spot marine Greg Aselbekian in the Trump hotel lobby, wearing a suit and a red MAGA hat. The 26-year-old, who writes for right-wing websites and is an ambassador for a pro-Trump veterans group, spends Thanksgiving brunch, New Year’s Eve, and Easter there. He attends events and happy hours and galas there. He rubs elbows with the likes of Sebastian Gorka, Sean Spicer, and Jeanine Pirro there. (Not to mention the four selfies he’s snagged with the President himself.) But most often, he’s hanging out with friends and fellow Trump supporters in the lobby lounge, drinking a Stella, because it’s the most affordable drink on the menu at $11.

“A few weeks ago, I went out with my friend and we met up at The Hamilton and had some beers,” Aselbekian says. As usual, he was wearing his signature red cap. “I ended up fighting with four people in about two hours, and it’s just aggravating. The Trump hotel—as much as I hate saying it—it’s almost like a safe space from all that bullshit.”

But Aselbekian and his cohort are now facing a potential social crisis. The Trump organization is looking to sell its lease at the Old Post Office building, which means the President’s supporters might have to find a new place to hang out. The big question: where will they go?

“Me and my friends will be devastated if they do sell the hotel,” Aselbekian says. “I’m in several group texts about it.”

The closest Trump fans seem to have as a back-up currently is Harry’s bar at the Hotel Harrington. The cheap drinks and close proximity (just one block away) have made the dive-y, diner-esque spot particularly popular as a pre- and post-game hub for the younger MAGA crowd. (It’s also a place where members of the Proud Boys have gathered.) After all, if you’re a young conservative on a budget, the Trump hotel is where you want to rack up business cards, not a tab. At Harry’s, Stella is only $5.75.

“For us, it’s more of an after-hours place. After the Trump closes, we’ll typically end up there if we’re going to have a late night,” says Republican political consultant and commentator Harlan Hill, who frequents the Trump hotel almost every day. “You’ll see familiar faces: other people who do Fox, some congressmen, but it’s not as common as at the Trump.”

Hill says there are also “a couple speakeasies that I really like,” especially The Mirror on K Street. “I’ll probably go there a fair amount. It’s certainly not a political bar at all, but like Harry’s, a lot of us will go there as much as we can.”

Logistically, though, neither is big enough to host the meetups that draw hundreds of the President’s supporters on the first Tuesday of every month. They don’t have the gilded grandeur of what the MAGA crowd calls “America’s Living Room.” And you’ll certainly never get a selfie with Trump himself there.

If you’re looking to rub elbows with big names, establishments like Joe’s Seafood, Off the Record at the Hay Adams, and Cafe Milano (once dubbed “the second White House cafeteria” in Page Six) attract their fair share of senior Trump administration officials. But they’re not so packed with White House newsmakers that you’d be guaranteed to come away with a “spotted” item for Playbook. Plus, you’re just as likely to find prominent Democrats at those places as well.

Conservative TV personality Eric Bolling stays at the Trump hotel a couple nights a week when he flies from his home in South Carolina to DC to tape his shows. He’s regularly enjoys a nightcap at the lobby bar, but his other go-tos around town include Joe’s Seafood and the Capital Grille. (He also loves to indulge at popular foodie spots like Rasika and Sushi Taro and prefers Filomena and RPM Italian to Cafe Milano.) Still, Trump hotel regulars like Bolling say they may still keep going to the hotel even if it does become a Waldorf Astoria or Marriott, just because it’s already their home base.

“I would think that whomever it sold to would be wise to keep it pretty darn close to what it is now, and it may continue to be the place to go,” Bolling says. “Maybe over time that may dissipate, but I certainly think the first couple years would be like that. That would be my first choice. I like the W hotel too.”

But whether a new owner will keep the existing Trump business would likely depend on whether the hotel closes for a lengthy renovation, says journalist Zach Everson, who writes a newsletter devoted exclusively to hotel happenings called 1100 Pennsylvania.

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“You might be able to keep some of it, if you don’t close it. People are so used to going there. It is their safe space. There’s going to be some animosity from liberals toward whoever buys the place, because they’ll have given the President several hundred million dollars for the lease,” Everson says. “If I were the buyer on that, I would just keep it right open. And if you want to do a renovation, just wait till Trump’s out of office.”

Or Trump’s supporters may take matters into their own hands. Hill says he and his friends are already discussing opening a bar that would act as a “Republican clubhouse.”

“We talk about it all the time very seriously,” Hill says. “We’ve got some friends that are in the industry that operate successful bars that are not political at all and don’t want to be. They’d rather fly under the radar, but they’re fans of the President and maybe we can lean on them. We’ll see.”

Everson likewise sees a big opportunity for the right person to open a conservative-leaning space. Short of that, he doesn’t see any clear successor.

“If I was a senior member of the administration right now, I would consider quitting and just opening my own bar and restaurant,” Everson says. “Sean Spicer could open up a bar with a dance floor and call it Spicey’s.”

“The Sean Spicer Disco” is an idea—however unlikely—that excites Trump hotel frequenter Martha Boneta, a policy advisor, commentator, and farmer. “There’d be lights and maybe one of those disco globes,” Boneta says. “I think people would be lined up out the door to see Sean dancing.”

But her dream team of hypothetical restaurateurs? Corey Lewandowski, Steve Bannon, and Sebastian Gorka. “All of the world’s problems would be solved right there,” Boneta says. “It would be all-American. Best hamburgers and fries you could get anywhere in the world.”

Until that day, though, the President’s supporters have one other option:

“We could always fly to other Trump properties to get our fix,” Boneta says.

Correction: This story initially stated that Greg Aselbekian is a former marine. He is still in the Marines. Also, Jeanine Pirro was incorrectly referred to as Jeanine Shapiro. 

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.

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