The hotel opened to much fanfare just months before former President Donald Trump took office, and it quickly became a draw for Trump loyalists and connoisseurs during his tenure.
“I mean, we were very busy,” Shawn Matijevich, former executive chef of the hotel’s steakhouse, told CNN. “With so many every day, you know that sometimes it almost gets overwhelming: how many VIPs and members of our government that you know are in the headlines are all in the same place together.”
A hotel staff member told CNN this month: “Since the coronavirus we weren’t doing that bad until I would say probably a month ago. It really, like, it slowed down.”
“It’s normal during this time of year to have this kind of slowdown, but because of everything that’s happening, it really had a different time.”
Indoor restaurants and bars in Washington are limited to 25% of capacity or 250 total people, whichever is less. The nation’s capital had stopped all indoor dining in December as Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations spiked.
On a recent Friday night, CNN observed about 30 patrons in the hotel’s bar and lounge over a three-hour span. But the main elevators were only used a handful of times, indicating that not many would spend the night.
The hallways of the hotel seemed almost lifeless around 7:00 PM ET.
“Where is everybody?” asked one of the men. The waiter raised his hands slightly, as if to express uncertainty.
When asked about the hotel’s current occupancy and revenue figures, Eric Trump, who runs the day-to-day operations of the family-owned real estate empire, praised the hotel in a statement without providing specific figures.
“Our location is unrivaled and we are incredibly proud to have the best hotel in our nation’s capital,” he said.
During a separate CNN visit to the hotel, only a handful of people were present in the lobby for several hours.
Hotels and other hotel businesses, which are a substantial part of Trump’s business empire, have been hit especially hard during the outbreak, as travelers stay home and governments impose closures.
Jan Freitag, senior vice president of Lodging Insights at STR, told CNN that in 2019, occupancy at high-end hotels in downtown DC was 73%.
“Basically one in four rooms was empty,” Freitag said. “Today, four out of every five rooms are empty.”
While a standard room can generally be booked for around $ 500, according to a review of the hotel’s website, a room on March 4 costs around $ 1,300. The Trump Organization did not respond to multiple questions about whether the price increase It was related to the QAnon conspiracy of March 4.
Still, the price hike underscores the appeal the former president may still have, even if he’s no longer on the street at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
“God bless Donald Trump. I mean, what else can you do?” a woman recently told CNN spontaneously in the hotel lobby. “We come here and support him.”