The Trump International Hotel in the Old Post Office Pavilion has traded one familiar brand for another.
Almost three months after chefs José Andrés and Geoffrey Zakarian each backed out of restaurant projects following Donald Trump's controversial comments about immigrants, the Republican presidential candidate's hotel group has chosen BLT Prime to operate its signature restaurant in Washington. Part of the ESquared Hospitality group, BLT Prime is a sister property to BLT Steak, which has had a location downtown since 2006.
"The D.C. dining community has whole-heartedly embraced the existing BLT Steak property and we wanted to offer a new dining destination to welcome guests to experience BLT Prime, their even more elevated concept, for the first time," said Donald Trump Jr., executive vice president of development and acquisitions for the Trump Organization, in an e-mail to The Post.
If you're wondering about the distinction between BLT Steak and BLT Prime, there really isn't much of one, said Keith Treyball, president of ESquared.
"I think our menu has a broader appeal than a typical steakhouse," Treyball said in response to the inevitable question about whether D.C. needs, or wants, another steakhouse. "It's not just about a piece of meat on a plate for us." He promised some "innovative" ideas will be on tap, but said he wasn't yet ready to share the details.
Treyball described his company's relationship with the Trump hotels as "great," and that he had no qualms about joining the project despite the controversial comments Trump made before Andrés and Zakarian withdrew.
"It's a business decision, 100 percent," Treyball said about ESquared's deal to take over the space. Treyball added that he has the "utmost respect" for Andrés, whose restaurants he said he eats at whenever he has the chance.
The Trump organization has already filed a $10 million breach-of-contract suit against Andrés's ThinkFoodGroup and an affiliate company. When asked for an update regarding that case and any proceedings against chef Geoffrey Zakarian, who also backed out of the hotel, Trump Jr. said "we have taken legal action to recover extensive damages."
This will be the first BLT Prime in Washington; the original New York location opened in 2005. A second BLT Prime opened in the Trump National Doral in Miami last year, and there's also a BLT Steak at the Trump hotel in Waikiki, which dates back to 2009 -- both of which have been an "enormous success," Trump Jr. said.
As for the new tenant, BLT Prime will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, and it will be especially well-suited to "power breakfasts, private events, business lunches and special evenings out," Trump Jr. said.
Incorporated into the glass-enclosed lobby of the 263-room luxury hotel, the 9,000-square-foot restaurant will offer views of the Old Post Office Pavilion's iconic clock tower and seat more than 225 diners, Trump Jr. said.
The hotel and restaurant, located at Pennsylvania Avenue and 12th Street NW, are scheduled to open by the fall of 2016.