A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit issued from the owners of a wine bar in Washington D.C against US President Donald Trump, which argued that his ownership of Trump International Hotel constitutes unfair competition. The lawsuit, which was filed back in March 2017, by Khalid Pitts and Diane Gross, was dismissed by Judge Richard J. Leon).
Pitts and Gross, who own Cork Wine Bar and Cork Market & Tasting Room, claimed that Trump’s appearance at the hotel and his involvement with it meant that there business was adversely affected.
The court document published by the U.S. District Court, District of Columbia, stated: “The crux of Cork’s complaint is that since President Trump took office on 20 January 2017, Cork has been damaged by unfair competition resulting from the President’s ownership, through OPO (Old Post Office LLC – a revocable trust that acts in Trump’s name), of the hotel.
“Cork alleges that it ‘competes with the restaurants in the hotel by providing the same or similar services that are provided by them in the same marketplace'”.
However, Judge Leon said: “I have concluded on the merits that Cork has failed to state a claim of unfair competition under D.C law and that defendants OPO’s and President Trump’s motions to dismiss must be granted”.
He added that he had seen no evidence of any “wrongful acts” that would constitute unfair competition such as commercial bribery, false advertising and defamation. He said that the wine bar had instead alleged that it had been damaged by the unfair advantage “that the hotel has exploited because of its ownership by President Trump”.
“[Cork’s] objection is not to a legally redressable wrong. Its objection is to ‘the process known as competition, which though painful, fierce, frequently ruthless, sometimes Darwinian in its pitilessness, is the cornerstone of our highly successful economic system'”.
“To hold actionable Cork’s allegations in this case, I would be condemning a broad swath of legitimate business conduct. I would be foreclosing all manner of prominent people – from pop singers to celebrity chefs to professional athletes – from taking equity in the companies they promote. Indeed I would be reading the ‘unfair’ right out of ‘unfair competition’. This I cannot do!” he said.
In a statement on behalf of the wine bar, its lawyer said that it would appeal the decision.
Trump has handed over day-to-day control of his businesses to his sons Eric and Donald Jr.
The Cork Wine Bar opened in January 2008 in what was previously a run-down area of town. Following its success, the Pitts and Gross opened The Cork Market and Tasting Room in December 2009.
The Trump International Hotel opened in September 2016 in Washington’s old post office. The hotel features 263 rooms, with a bar, lounge and spa.