The Trump International Hotel first opened its doors to much pomp and circumstance not long after the ex-president was sworn into office back in 2017. It quickly became the place to be for Trump insiders and wannabe insiders during his single term.
“I mean, we were very busy,” Shawn Matijevich, former executive chef at the hotel’s steak restaurant, tells CNN. “With so many every day, you know it almost got overwhelming at times–how many VIP’s and members of our government that you know are making headlines are all together in the same place.”
But coronavirus, Trump’s landslide election loss, and, oh yeah, the deadly insurrection the U.S. Capitol has caused business to tank.
“We weren’t doing so bad until I’d say probably a month ago,” a hotel employee says. “It really, like, slowed down. It’s normal during this time of year to have this kind of slow down, but because of everything going on, it kind of really had a different time.”
On a recent Friday night, CNN observed around 30 customers in the hotel’s bar and lounge area over a three-hour span. But the main elevators were only used a handful of times, signaling that not many were staying overnight.
The halls of the hotel appeared mostly lifeless around 7:00 p.m. ET.
The following morning, hotel staff and Trump’s then-impeachment defense team were some of the only people populating the vast lobby. No one had breakfast in the lounge for a span more than an hour before two men came in.
“Where is everyone?” one of the men asked. The waiter slightly threw up his hands, as if to express uncertainty.
Last month, video from inside the lobby of the 263-room luxury hotel went viral on Twitter. It showed a cold, barren, and empty landscape. Not a soul was in sight, despite bright television screens and loud music pulsating through the speaker system.
?Trump Hotel, DC – Looks like they drained the swamp pic.twitter.com/dgDg3HxRbp
— Jane Mayer (@JaneMayerNYer) January 27, 2021
In a statement, Eric Trump, who oversees day-to-day operations of the family’s crumbling real estate empire, praised his dad’s hotel.
“Our location is unrivaled and we are incredibly proud to have the best hotel in our nation’s capital,” he boasted without offering any figures to suggest the business was doing well.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump’s final financial disclosure statement as President showed sales at the hotel fell by a whopping 63% in 2020. And Jan Freitag, senior vice president of Lodging Insights at STR, says occupancy at high-end hotels across downtown D.C. is down 73%.
“So basically, one-in-four rooms was empty,” she explains to CNN. “Today, four-in-five rooms are empty.”
Last month, the Washington Post reported that the Trump Organization had been shopping the lease on the hotel for a year, hoping to unload the property to the tune of $500 million, but the frustrated real-estate broker wasn’t been able to find any interested buyers and quit.
Graham Gremore is the Features Editor and a Staff Writer at Queerty. Follow him on Twitter @grahamgremore.