Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s disparaging remarks last summer about illegal immigrants “essentially torpedoed” the planned Spanish restaurant that Washington-based celebrity chef José Andrés had agreed to open in Trump’s luxury Washington hotel, the restaurateur said in a new legal filing.
A quick refresher: After Andrés walked away from the planned eatery, Trump slapped Andrés with a $10 million breach-of-contract lawsuit. Andrés countered with an $8 million lawsuit, arguing that Trump’s comments about immigrants constituted the initial breach. (The legalese boiled down to something along the lines of “but he started it.”)
In the filing asking for a summary judgment, Andres and his company detailed earlier claims about how Trump’s calling illegal immigrants “rapists” and criminals had made it impossible to run a successful Spanish restaurant. Andres quantified the challenges the controversy presented in hiring staffers: They were “suddenly confronted with the task of recruiting Hispanics and Hispanophiles to work at a place closely identified with a man whose statements had made him a pariah for the great majority of the Hispanic community,” according to the document.
Attracting customers would also be difficult, they argued, with Trump’s comments triggering boycotts of his other commercial enterprises. And the restaurant company’s financier also expressed doubt about the viability of the business plan after the public controversy, according to the filing.
One interesting nugget: The filing reveals emails sent between Andrés’s Think Food Group and the Trump organization. In one exchange, a Think Food Group executive complained that they were “getting hammered” over the statements.
Her email to Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump was passed along inside Trump headquarters, according to the filing, “prompting the following response from the Trump Organization’s David Orowitz: ‘Ugh. This is not surprising and would expect that this will not be the last that we hear of it. At least for formal, prepared speeches, can someone vet going forward? Hopefully the Latino community does not organize against us more broadly in DC / across Trump properties.’ ”
Donald Trump Jr. responded: “Yea I was waiting for that one. Let’s discuss in the am,” according to the filing.
It’s unclear whether anyone on Team Trump put “vet speeches” on their to-do list, and a Trump spokeswoman did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
The 35-page filing also seeks to rebut an essential part of Trump’s initial lawsuit — that Andrés’s company was overdue in filing design and construction documents. That claim is a “transparent attempt to manufacture a default for litigation purposes,” the chef argued. “As the written record makes clear, [his company] Topo Atrio had reached agreement with Trump LLC . . . to extend that deadline.”
Meanwhile, a second high-profile chef, New York-based Geoffrey Zakarian, is still mired in a similar legal dispute with Trump and company. Zakarian had followed Andrés’s footsteps, walking away from a second eatery slated to open in the luxury development.
A D.C. Superior Court judge this month ordered that The Donald, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump all be deposed in that lawsuit.
But all the legal doings don’t mean the swanky Trump hotel will be restaurant-less: BLT Prime is slated to open in the space next fall.