| WASHINGTON, March 9
WASHINGTON, March 9 A Washington restaurant has
sued U.S. President Donald Trump and the company that operates
his landmark Washington hotel, claiming that patrons have
shifted business there to curry favor with his new
administration, the owners said on Thursday.
The suit, which was filed on Wednesday, does not seek
monetary damages but wants Trump to divest from the hotel,
resign or close it while he is president.
Diane Gross and Khalid Pitts, the husband-and-wife owners of
the Cork Wine Bar, claim they and other businesses face unfair
competition from the Trump International Hotel, which opened in
September a few weeks before Trump was elected.
Their suit alleges Trump's ownership of the hotel, located a
few blocks from the White House in the historic Old Post Office
building owned by the federal government, violates a rule that
bars elected officials from being party to the lease or
benefiting from it.
"We simply want to level the playing field so that all
District of Columbia restaurants can compete fairly," Pitts said
at a news conference.
The hotel is among hundreds of businesses that could create
unprecedented conflicts of interest for Trump, a New York real
estate developer and reality television star who became
president in January. He has said he avoided the conflict issue
by transferring control of his businesses to some of his
In an email, Trump Organization attorney Alan Garten
dismissed the lawsuit as "a publicity stunt completely lacking
in legal merit."
Pitts and Gross said business had fallen off at their
restaurant, located about a mile from the hotel, since Trump
took office. They cited media reports that foreign dignitaries
have "flocked" to the hotel and said many people had increased
their use of the hotel and its restaurants to gain political
They could not provide numbers or point to any specific
client they had lost but said the hotel's increased business has
occurred "to the detriment of Cork."
Congressional Democrats also have contended Trump's
ownership of the hotel violates its lease with the General
Services Administration (GSA), the federal property arm.
The GSA did not respond to a request for comment. In
January, the agency said it was reviewing information from the
Trump business that operates the hotel to assess its compliance
with the lease.
Pitts and Gross said their lawsuit does not address whether
Trump is violating the U.S. Constitution by letting his business
accept payments from foreign governments, the central claim of a
January suit filed by constitutional and ethics lawyers.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson and Julia Harte; Additional reporting
by Mark Hosenball; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Bill Trott)