A group of D.C. residents attempting to block the Trump International Hotel downtown from renewing its liquor license survived an attempt to squash their case this week.
In a ruling dated to Tuesday, the city’s alcohol authority upheld the group’s right to protest the license on grounds that the hotel’s owner, who just so happens to the be the President of the United States, does not meet the broad standard of “good character” required by license holders under D.C. law.
The D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) denied a motion filed by the hotel’s attorney, Stephen J. O’Brien, to dismiss the protest. O’Brien argued that the protest group — which is made up of several judges, reverends, and rabbis — couldn’t use the “good character” line of the law as a reason for protesting the license. In its response, ABRA asserted that “good character” is a valid reason for protesting because of cases when “obviously deficient or unlawful applications,” like applications filed by felons or ones attempting to move into moratorium zones, need to be stopped. ABRA also brushed off O’Brien’s claim that President Donald Trump couldn’t be scrutinized as an individual because the hotel is organized under a corporation.
The ruling clears the way for the board to actually consider the protest.
The battle dates back to last year, when the group argued that the Trump hotel should be stripped of its liquor license because of Trump’s myriad scandals, including “certain lies he has told, his involvement in relevant fraudulent and other activity demonstrating his lack of integrity, and his refusal to abide by the law or to stop associating with known criminals.”
In September, ABRA declared the protest couldn’t be heard until the license went up for renewal, which happened at the end of March.
Joshua Levy, the lawyer representing the group filing the protest, told the Washington Post this week that ABRA’s decision was a “victory for the rule of law.”
“The board correctly rejected Trump’s attempt to silence the public and be held above the law,” Levy said. “In the District of Columbia, no one is above the law.”
ABRA ordered the group filing the protest to submit their addresses to the hotel’s lawyer, which would prove their D.C. residency. The case is paused until that happens, but afterward it could move to mediation or a hearing before the board.