Khalid Pitts and Diane Gross, the co-owners of Cork Wine Bar and Market on 14th Street NW, could not prove that President Donald Trump’s fame and political status gives Trump International Hotel an unfair competitive advantage, a federal judge ruled yesterday.
District Judge Richard J. Leon dismissed a civil suit that Pitts and Gross brought against the president, the Washington Post reports. Leon said that Trump’s status and fame gives him “unseemly” — but not illegal — help in courting political figures to the hotel. In siding with Trump, Leon said that validating Cork’s argument would set a precedent of keeping all manner of prominent people, including celebrity chefs and star athletes, from claiming equity in their businesses.
Pitts posted a tweet after the ruling saying that his group intends to file an appeal.
.@OConnellPostbiz - Judge Leon's decision was that "Unfair Competition" is not the proper vehicle to address Trump’s abusive of power, and we respectfully disagree and will be making our arguments through the appellate process. #corkdc— Khalid Pitts (@KhalidPitts) November 26, 2018
Pitts and Gross, partners in business and marriage, filed the suit against Trump last year. The couple contended that by hosting foreign dignitaries and by personally appearing at the hotel that houses BLT Prime steakhouse, Trump was unfairly attracting customers who would otherwise consider Cork. Pitts told the Post last year that the wine bar has often hosted, “elected officials, nonprofits, foreign dignitaries, the World Bank, [and] law firms.”
Trump has resigned from his position at the Trump Organization while in office and put his adult sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, in charge while he’s in office. Following Monday’s win for the family business, Eric Trump issued a statement calling Cork’s suit “nothing more than a politically motivated attack.”
Pitts and Gross are open about their liberal politics. Pitts ran for D.C. Council in 2014 and has held leadership positions with the Sierra Club and the Service Employees International Union.
In March, Gross told Eater that President Trump “should be focusing 100 percent on running the U.S. and not on how much his business is bringing in.”
A little more than a year a go, with rents continuing to rise on 14th Street NW, Cork closed its original restaurant and consolidated its full-service operation into the market building it owns nearby.
- Court tosses D.C. wine bar’s suit against Trump alleging unfair competition [WaPo]
- Wine bar owners sue President Trump, saying D.C. hotel unfairly takes away business [WaPo]
- Meet an at-large D.C. Council candidate: Khalid Pitts [WaPo]
- Cork’s Founders Are Not Done Stirring Things Up [EDC]
- Consolidated Cork Wine Bar & Market Settles Into Its New Home [EDC]