Donald Trump touts his supposed business acumen and his (self-proclaimed) reputation as a great “builder” as two of his greatest presidential qualifications. But in the heart of northwest Washington, D.C.—just a few blocks away from the White House he wishes to inhabit come January—it appears as though Trump has built himself one brand-new, luxuriously marbled flop.
On Monday afternoon, the real-estate mogul and Republican presidential nominee’s latest hotel finally enjoyed its soft opening (a quiet launch for invited guests that eschews all the pressures of an official grand opening) at the Old Post Office Pavilion.
The only celebrity spotted at the opening was, of all people, Oscar-nominated actor Randy Quaid (Independence Day, National Lampoon’s Vacation movies, Brokeback Mountain), who has gone off the deep end and alleged that a Hollywood assassination squad was after him and his wife.
Asked why he was in D.C., Quaid simply pointed to Trump’s hotel and said “for this,” before jumping into a car and racing off.
The grand-opening ceremony for Trump International Hotel, Washington, D.C., will reportedly take place next month, weeks before election night.
In 2011, the Trump Organization beat out the competition to secure a 60-year lease from the federal government to renovate the iconic Old Post Office building. Trump broke ground on the project before officially jumping into the 2016 presidential fray last year, and he has repeatedly vowed to make his newest hotel property one of the very best in the world. Earlier this year, he used his presidential campaign to help promote and brag about the new Trump hotel.
Between now and the planned October grand opening, Trump’s D.C. venture has a way to go.
As press was ushered into the renovated building—passing the unironically titled “PRESIDENTIAL BALLROOM”—the smell of white paint was still thick, and contractors wearing hard hats were rushing about the lobby. The ground-level bar was mercifully open and serving Trump-brand sparkling wine, as the mounted TV screens played promos for Melissa Joan Hart’s Christian film God’s Not Dead 2.
Every item of decor, from the turquoise and faux-gold armchairs to the candy dishes made out of fake dimes and nickels, was handpicked by Ivanka Trump with the help of design firm HBA. The overall aesthetic is somewhere between real, inoffensive luxury and a Red Roof Inn patron’s conception of what a stylish, upper-echelon hotel must be.
Just like every other Trump hotel, it is, in its own way, a perfect metaphor for the man himself.
For the entirety of this soft opening, journalists were permitted to explore only the lobby. Trump hotel staff enthusiastically greeted the small number of reporters and curious public to gush about the “historic” and “iconic” and “beautiful” structure.
As for its namesake? According to staff, he might as well be the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being they’ve ever known in their lives.
“Oh, a great guy,” one front-desk staffer told The Daily Beast.
“I’ve met [the Trump family]—you couldn’t ask for better owners,” one publicist claimed.
But the moment The Daily Beast asked about the Trump campaign or politics, the staff (clearly urged to keep their mouths shut about the GOP presidential hopeful’s rhetoric and extreme policy prescriptions regarding Muslims, undocumented immigrants, war, and so forth) immediately demurred and directed the inquiries to media relations.
Patricia Tang, director of marketing for the Trump International Hotel, insisted that the campaign has not been bad for business and that all of the negative publicity is more than offset by the “people who have already fallen in love” with the newly opened Trump property.
As for the barely two dozen protesters outside, brandishing anti-Trump and “anti-racist” placards handed out by the controversial hard-left group ANSWER Coalition?
“Everyone has a right to protest—this is Washington, D.C.,” Tang said with a smile.
The problem for Tang and the Trump family is that bad press has, for the past year, almost exclusively defined the media coverage of Trump’s latest luxury hotel—and there is real evidence that it is cutting into Trump Hotels’ bottom line.
Originally, Trump had assured future patrons that his D.C. hotel would include two world-class restaurants. The two celebrity chefs, José Andrés and Geoffrey Zakarian, who had agreed to oversee the menus for their respective restaurants, pulled out of their deals shortly after Trump launched his White House run by loudly slamming Mexican immigrants as rapists. Trump, in a retaliatory strike, sued both celeb chefs. (Publicists for the chefs did not respond to The Daily Beast’s requests for comment on Monday.)
Andrés, for his part, devotes much space on his personal Twitter feed to tweeting and retweeting anti-Trump content.
The hotel opens now with only one two-floor restaurant located in the lobby—BLT Prime, a chain steakhouse.
The bad news for Trump Hotels doesn’t stop there. Some industry estimates have reservations at Trump hotels down almost 60 percent since September of last year—and the word on the street is that Trump’s legal tiff with the two celebrity chefs has tanked his family and brand name in the eyes of the restaurant community.
“He’s clearly a racist and makes racist comments, and we have an industry that has always reached out to an immigrant population and built on the work of an immigrant population,” Top Chef’s Tom Colicchio, the owner of Craft who was reportedly approached by the Trump Organization after Andrés and Zakarian bailed, told Mother Jones magazine. (Colicchio is also a friend of Andrés.)
“I think that the remarks [Trump] makes would make it very difficult for anyone to stand up in front of their staff and want to be part of what he’s doing,” he continued.
But if none of this bothers you, and you’ve found yourself in Washington, D.C., and need a place to crash, just make sure the Trump International Hotel is in your price range.
For weeknights this fall, the hotel’s least expensive rooms will run you a minimum of $735 per night. For comparison, other luxury hotels that will compete with Trump for business ring in at $400 a night at The Jefferson for October (around the time of the opening of the Trump hotel), and roughly $300 at The Willard. Both are boutique and historic hotels in the District.
The room rates at Trump’s new establishment aren’t by simple design, but by necessity.
In a filing with the General Services Administration, lawyers for one of Trump’s competitors argued that for Trump’s hotel to stay afloat, it would have to charge some of the most exorbitant rates in the nation’s capital.
“A properly conducted price reasonableness analysis would have resulted in the conclusion that the minimum base lease proposed by Trump would require Trump to obtain hotel room revenues which are simply not obtainable in this location based on the concepts for the redevelopment,” the lawyers for the competing development team wrote.
Welcome to Trump’s D.C. hotel—perhaps a microcosm of the bigger, badder, and broke America that a President Trump could have in store.