News & Politics

The Trump Hotel Lobby Is Very, Very Quiet

On a recent visit, we didn’t see the hotel’s elevator doors open even once.

Photograph by Jane Recker.

Recent reports about a perhaps-imminent sale of the Trump International Hotel got us wondering: What’s the place like these days? Not long ago, the lobby was a bustling schmooze spot for the red-cap set, with bands of tourists stopping in to snap pics.

No longer. We dropped by one recent evening, and the dance music thrumming over the sound system couldn’t conceal the distinct lack of action. A placard near the entrance we used read HOTEL GUESTS & INVITEES ACCESS ONLY. It’s unclear how stringently this policy is enforced, though, as a smile earned us easy entry despite our lack of official permission.

It was 5 pm on the Tuesday after Labor Day, and roughly a dozen customers were in evidence—a tiny number for such a cavernous space. We camped out at the bar with a martini and a plate of fries, taking in the (lack of) scene. At one point, a maskless man approached us and asked, “Are you part of the Trump book club?” We were not. He wandered away, soon joining a small group across the room. A woman came to the bar and got a glass of Grenache. “I usually order the Trump wine,” she said, “but . . . .” She gazed around. “This is really a change from what it used to be. It used to be packed all the time.” She gulped her wine and left.

The Trump Organization has been trying to offload the place since 2019, putting the lease up for sale and then pulling it off the market when the pandemic hit; the company is now shopping it again. The historic property is one of the city’s most impressive spaces. But if the hours we spent there are any indication, it’s easy to see why the organization hopes to ditch it. By 7 pm, we hadn’t seen the elevator doors move once.

Then again, maybe more is happening than is discernible to the naked eye. We struck up a conversation with a guy who was eager to chat with a journalist. “You ever write about Harris?” he asked, referring, we assumed, to the Vice President. He looked around suspiciously. “Meet me here at 10 o’ clock,” he said. “Get a few Irish whiskeys in me, I can tell you a lot of things.” We didn’t stick around.

This article appears in the October 2021 issue of Washingtonian.

Jane Recker
Assistant Editor

Jane is a Chicago transplant who now calls Cleveland Park her home. Before joining Washingtonian, she wrote for Smithsonian Magazine and the Chicago Sun-Times. She is a graduate of Northwestern University, where she studied journalism and opera.