The last two and a half years of this administration have been enough to cause anyone to reach for the drink. You just might not be able to do so at President Donald Trump’s own hotel.
This week, the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) of Washington, D.C., which issues and regulates liquor licenses for private businesses operating in the District of Columbia, denied a motion by the Trump International Hotel to dismiss a complaint against its own license renewal — which means the president’s gaudy hotel situated along Pennsylvania Avenue might soon lose the ability to sell alcohol on the premises.
A group of at least five residents and property owners in the district filed a complaint with ABRA contesting the hotel’s application for a renewal of its liquor license, arguing that Trump, who remains an owner of the property, is unfit to be trusted with a controlled substance.
According to ABRA’s own guidelines, in order for a private entity to obtain or renew its liquor license, “the Applicant is obligated to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Board that the ownership ‘is of good character and generally fit for the responsibilities of licensure’.” The group that is contesting the hotel’s renewal argues that Trump does not meet those standards.
Rather than take up the Sisyphean task of defending Trump’s good character, the applicants for the license argued that the president’s inability to comport with the “good character” guidelines should have no bearing on the hotel that bears his name because the property is technically controlled and managed by a private limited liability corporation set up to handle legal matters pertaining to the hotel. ABRA did not buy this argument, writing in its decision that “the Board has consistently held that ‘the mere creation of a corporate entity does not shield the individuals holding an interest in a corporation or limited liability company from having their records as owners scrutinized by the Board.'”
ABRA’s decision is not itself a revocation of Trump International’s liquor license, but it does clear a path for a public showdown between the most heavily Democratic city in the country and Donald Trump, the least popular president in modern history.
Fittingly, the dispute is one entirely of Trump’s making. Despite promising to cut ties with his private business holdings upon taking office, Trump has refused to divest from his private organization and real estate portfolio, in violation of federal law. From the minute he was sworn into office, Donald Trump has been in violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which strictly prohibits the president from profiting off of the office.
Rather than divest, Trump has all but turned the hotel into an edifice dedicated to the violation of the Emoluments Clause, encouraging foreign dignitaries, business leaders, and others hoping to curry favor with the administration to stay at the expensive property he owns.
This is not the first time the complainants have contested Trump International’s liquor license. They brought a similar complaint last year, but ABRA dismissed that petition because the license was not up for renewal at the time. The complaint was refiled earlier this spring, when the hotel was forced to reapply for its license.