Washington’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board opened the door this week to hearing a challenge to President Donald Trump’s liquor license at his Washington hotel over claims that he doesn’t meet the city’s “good character” requirements.
The board on Wednesday issued an order denying the Trump International Hotel’s motion to dismiss a “protest” from a group consisting of an attorney, two former judges and a handful of religious leaders who assert that Trump is not of “good character” and therefore should not be able to sell alcoholic beverages in Washington.
The group is citing a DC regulation that says a liquor license owner must be “of good character and generally fit for the responsibilities of licensure.” Trump, they say, remains an owner of the hotel, though he has handed over day to day management to his sons while in office.
Wednesday’s decision is a victory for the group, whose earlier protest against the hotel was rebuffed by the board last year when the panel said that objections to liquor licenses can only be submitted when a license is up for renewal.
Hoping for a round two this year, the group submitted another request using many of the same examples it did in 2018 to assert that the President is not of “good character” and therefore should not hold a liquor license.
In the documents, the group wrote that it is “focusing on certain lies (Trump) has told, his involvement in relevant fraudulent and other activity demonstrating his lack of integrity, and his refusal to abide by the law or to stop associating with known criminals.”
Among other things, the group cited last year’s guilty plea of Trump’s former personal attorney and confidant Michael Cohen and a number of misstatements they say the President has made.
The Trump hotel had argued that the group’s request should be blocked by the board on the grounds of “appropriateness,” arguing that an owner’s character is not a consideration when issuing or renewing licenses. But in its ruling, the board said that the hotel’s “interpretation (of local law) contradicts the intent of the legislature, which considered character challenges a fundamental part of the District’s alcohol laws.”
The hotel is located in the Old Post Office building in Washington, a building leased from the federal government.
Neither the Trump Organization nor its attorney representing the hotel in the matter, Stephen O’Brien, responded to CNN’s request for comment on Friday.
Joshua Levy, an attorney who is representing the group challenging the license renewal, told CNN on Friday that the board’s order is “a solid victory for the rule of law.”
“Despite Trump’s efforts to silence the public and hold himself above the law, the board correctly denied his motion to dismiss and found that the public can ‘protest’ the owner’s character on renewal of their liquor license,” Levy said.
The DC board said that the group will have to decide whether it wants to turn over the addresses of the group’s members to determine if they have standing to bring their protest. If it’s determined that they have standing, the board will then decide if the protest should be taken up by the panel, which would hold hearings on the issue.
CNN’s Eli Watkins contributed to this report.