The hotel had opened to much fanfare just months before former President Donald Trump took office, and quickly became a draw for Trump loyalists and insiders throughout his tenure.
“I mean, we were very busy,” Shawn Matijevich, the former executive chef at the hotel’s steak restaurant, explained to CNN. “With so many every day, you know it almost got overwhelming at times — how many VIP’s and members of our government that you know are making headlines are all together in the same place.”
One hotel staffer told CNN this month, “Since the coronavirus we weren’t doing so bad until I’d say probably a month ago. It really, like, slowed down.”
“It’s normal during this time of year to have this kind of slow down, but because of everything going on, it kind of really had — a different time.”
Indoor restaurants and bars in Washington are limited to 25% capacity or 250 people total, whichever is smaller. The nation’s capital had paused all indoor dining in December as Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations surged.
On a recent Friday night, CNN observed around 30 customers in the hotel’s bar and lounge area over a three-hour span. But the main elevators were only used a handful of times, signaling that not many were staying overnight.
The halls of the hotel appeared mostly lifeless around 7:00 p.m. ET.
“Where is everyone?” one of the men asked. The waiter slightly threw up his hands, as if to express uncertainty.
Asked about the hotel’s current occupancy and revenue numbers, Eric Trump, who runs day-to-day operations of the family real estate empire, praised the hotel in a statement without providing any 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, just a handful of people were present in the lobby over multiple hours.
Hotels and other hospitality companies, which form a substantial part of Trump’s business empire, have been hit especially hard during the outbreak as travelers stay home and governments impose lockdowns.
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%.
“So basically, one-in-four rooms was empty,” Freitag said. “Today, four-in-five rooms are empty.”
While a standard room can be usually 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 inquiries about whether the price surge was related to QAnon’s March 4 conspiracy.
Still, the price hike underscores the draw that the former President can still command, even if he’s no longer down the road at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
“God bless Donald Trump. I mean, what else can you do?” one woman recently told CNN unprompted in the hotel’s lobby. “We come here and we support him.”