An effort by a group of D.C. residents to strip Trump International Hotel of its liquor license by arguing its owner — the president — is not of “good character” hit a roadblock Wednesday when the D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Board declined to review the case.
The board cited a technicality, noting that the character of liquor license owners is not reviewed at will, but when liquor licenses are issued, transferred or renewed. The five board members present Wednesday did not rule on the substance of the complaint, which suggests that President Trump is violating the D.C. law that states license applicants must be of “good character and generally fit for the responsibilities of licensure.”
“It is important to note that all hotel liquor license owners in the District of Columbia are required to apply for a renewal of their license by March 31, 2019,” Chair Donovan Anderson said following his decision, opening the possibility that the residents could file their complaint again next year.
But Joshua Levy, the attorney who filed the complaint on behalf of seven residents — three ministers, two retired judges and two rabbis — said the group does not plan to wait until next year and will submit a filing asking the board to reconsider its decision.
“The facts are so compelling right now,” Levy said after the ruling. “The board has a duty to act right now.”
Anderson said the board conducted a regulatory inspection of the Trump hotel following the complaint and found one alleged sale to a minor, which Anderson said does not have bearing on the good character complaint but will be reviewed by the board later this month.
The residents’ complaint detailed what Levy described as the “overwhelming” evidence that Trump “lacks good character,” citing accusations of sexual misconduct, contractors who claim Trump’s businesses haven’t paid them and a pattern of lies and deception.
The complaint says that even though the president put his business holdings, including the hotel, into a revocable trust, he is still the “true and actual” owner of the hotel and holder of its liquor license. News reports have noted that Trump can withdraw money from the trust, which is controlled by his adult sons.
The group behind the complaint, called “Make Integrity Great Again,” is backed by Jerry Hirsch, an Arizona Republican who practiced law and ran real estate and technology companies before becoming a philanthropist.
Hirsch said in a statement Wednesday that he found it puzzling that the board decided the complaint on a technicality.
“It is surprising and unfortunate that the DC Alcoholic Beverage Control Board decided this complaint on procedural grounds rather than on the merits. Surprising because the Board waited almost three months, while the Plaintiffs focused on extensive research efforts and expended time and energy filing three substantive supplements to the Complaint. Unfortunate, because had they decided on the merits, we are confident that the evidence was so overwhelming that a show cause hearing would have been scheduled. Their narrowly framed decision eschewed the merits and thereby did a disservice to residents of the Capital. I can only hope that they reconsider in the interests of the laws and the citizenry they serve.”
Patricia Tang, director of sales and marketing at the Trump hotel, declined to comment on the complaint.
Hirsch’s group has circulated a petition seeking support from residents in the overwhelmingly Democratic District, where Trump received 4 percent of the vote to Hillary Clinton’s 91 percent in the 2016 presidential contest.
A Washington Post poll taken in June 2017, just six months into the Trump presidency, found one-third of D.C. residents had participated in a rally or march to protest Trump or his policies.