The Trump organization has made good on its threats to sue ThinkFoodGroup after chef José Andrés announced he was backing out of a deal to open the flagship restaurant in Donald Trump‘s swanky new Old Post Office hotel. Trump Old Post Office LLC filed a lawsuit in D.C. court today seeking $10 million in lost rent and other damages over breach of contract.
On July 8, Andrés said in a statement that the Presidential candidate’s remarks disparaging immigrants made it “impossible” for him to move forward with his planned Spanish fine dining restaurant. “More than half of my team is Hispanic, as are many of our guests,”Andrés said. “And, as a proud Spanish immigrant and recently naturalized American citizen myself, I believe that every human being deserves respect, regardless of immigration status.”
In the complaint, Trump’s lawyers call into question Andrés’ timing. “Mr. Andrés’ offense is curious in light of the fact that Mr. Trump’s publicly shared views on immigration have remained consistent for many years, and Mr. Trump’s willingness to frankly share his opinions is widely known,” the document reads.
The complaint notes that Andres previously praised Trump in a January 2015 press release for his business “acumen” and said he was “proud to partner with him.”
The complaint also says that ThinkFoodGroup sent the hotel a notice on July 17 alleging that, as a result of the content of Mr. Trump’s announcement speech, the landlord had “constructively evicted” them and “violated the covenants of quiet enjoyment and good faith and fair dealing.” ThinkFoodGroup then allegedly demanded that Trump “recant his personal opinions” and ensure they “not be repeated, restated, or further disseminated.”
The complaint claims there are no provisions in the sublease or any other document that allow the tenant to terminate the agreement based on “personal offense with respect to comments made by the landlord, its principals or affiliates, including Mr. Trump.”
The plaintiff says ThinkFoodGroup was obligated under the lease to deliver “90% completed construction” documents by June 29 and failed to do so.
“It is indisputably harmful to open a luxury hotel without its planned restaurant, much less one undergoing construction as will now be required,” the complaint reads. “This is why the parties to the Sublease negotiated numerous provisions to ensure that the design, approval, and construction remained on schedule.”
The court document notes that the hotel has “been forced” to hire a new architect to prepare new designs and plans for the flagship restaurant. If a new tenant can’t be found in a timely manner, the “landlord will be forced to design and develop a restaurant itself at significant cost,” the document reads.
Y&H has contacted ThinkFoodGroup for comment and will update this post with their response. Attorney Rebecca Woods of Seyfarth Shaw, who’s representing Trump Old Post Office, could not be immediately reached for comment.
UPDATE: ThinkFoodGroup has responded to the lawsuit with the following statement:
“This lawsuit is both unsurprising and without merit. Simply put, Mr. Trump’s comments made ThinkFoodGroup’s participation in this project impossible and constituted a breach which the landlord, Trump Old Post Office LLC, refused to remedy. And despite our attempts to negotiate an amicable resolution, we were ultimately forced to terminate the lease. We had every intention of running a successful business that celebrates and welcomes people and cultures from around the world. The landlord allowed Mr. Trump to saddle us with the burden of his inflammatory statements, such that operating a high-end Spanish restaurant is no longer viable for us at this location.”
Photo by Jessica Sidman