Ladies of the night -- and morning and noon -- are putting a dent in the business of a downtown hotel, most recently causing a delegation of Soviet nuclear safety experts to move.
U.S. officials said they were worried that the Russians might get the wrong impression if they saw women in hot pants soliciting outside. "They might think that it's allowed over here," said Stephen N. Salomon, a Soviet affairs specialist for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The Soviets also might conclude that "we, as a host, didn't try to select a nice hotel where they wouldn't have to deal with that situation," he added. "When you have guests over, you don't want to hang out your dirty linen."
The cancellation last month of reservations for 10 rooms for the Soviet delegation was not the first time that the Best Western Center City Hotel, which opened last December at 1201 13th St. NW, has lost business because of streetwalkers outside, said Jonathan Albright, the hotel's manager.
"We have documented the loss of, I would say, maybe five or six major items of business here in the last six months . . . specifically because of the obvious presence of prostitutes," Albright said.
While other hotels in the area also are affected by nearby prostitution activity, officials said, managers at Best Western described it as particularly troublesome for a new hotel. The problem discourages repeat customers and works against the hotel's efforts to establish a strong business base, they said.
Albright and other hotel officials have complained to the mayor's office and to police, they said. The prostitutes leave the area when police patrols come through, but they return, Albright added. When prostitutes are arrested, they often are back on the street within hours, he said. Police declined to comment on the issue.
"They say it is a victimless crime, but it's not as far as I'm concerned," said Joe Kreit, the hotel's general manager. "I'm losing a lot of business. The midwestern traveler who comes here with his family, they're not used to seeing that."
"I've seen a pimp beating up one of his girls here right in front of the hotel," he said.
Salomon said he saw the prostitutes on Oct. 4, a Sunday, when he went to inspect the hotel before the Soviets' arrival. It was a cold and windy morning. Four women were standing across the street from the hotel dressed in short jackets, hot pants and miniskirts.
Salomon said he was certain they were prostitutes. "I didn't go up and ask them, but you take a poll of men and 99 out of 100 would recognize them," he said.
When he discussed the issue with other officials, Salomon recalled, "Some of them said, 'Well, if that problem is there, let the Soviets worry about it.' Others supported me in a stronger view that we ought to at least make an attempt to find something more satisfactory."
Although the hotel is conveniently located and attractively decorated, Salomon said, he had the government-contracted travel agent cancel the reservations and find another hotel for the Soviet visitors.
The Center City hotel lost at least $4,240 in business, which went to the Best Western Westpark in Rosslyn, where the Soviets stayed for five days. Besides their meetings here with officials from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Soviets toured nuclear facilities in Illinois, North Carolina and Pennsylvania and visited San Francisco, New York and other cities, Salomon said.