The hotel had opened with great 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 of the hotel’s grill restaurant, told CNN. “With so many people around every day, you know it got overwhelming at times – how many personalities and members of our government that you know are making the headlines are all gathered in one place.”
A member of hotel staff told CNN this month: “Since the coronavirus, we haven’t been in so much pain as I would say probably a month ago. It has really slowed down.”
“It’s normal this time of year to have this kind of slowdown, but because of everything that’s going on, it really happened – a different time.”
Indoor restaurants and bars in Washington are limited to 25% of capacity or 250 people total, whichever is smaller. The national capital suspended all indoor meals in December as Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations increased.
Recently, on a Friday evening, CNN observed around 30 customers in the hotel bar and lounge over a three-hour period. But the main elevators were only used a handful of times, signaling that few people were staying overnight.
The hotel hallways looked almost lifeless around 7:00 p.m. ET.
“Where is everyone?” one of the men asked. The waiter raised his hands slightly, as if to express his uncertainty.
Asked about the hotel’s occupancy rate and current revenues, 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 numbers.
“Our location is second to none and we are extremely proud to have the best hotel in our country’s capital,” he said.
On another CNN visit to the hotel, only a handful of people were in the lobby for several hours.
Hotels and other hospitality companies, which form a substantial part of Trump’s business empire, have been particularly hard hit during the outbreak, with travelers staying at home and governments imposing lockdowns.
Jan Freitag, senior vice president of Lodging Insights at STR, told CNN that in 2019, the occupancy rate of upscale hotels in downtown DC was 73%.
“So basically one in four rooms was empty,” Freitag said. “Today, four out of five rooms are empty.”
While a standard room can usually 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 inquiries about the link between the price spike and the QAnon plot on March 4.
Still, the price hike underscores the raffle the former president can still order, even though he’s no longer on the road at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
“God bless Donald Trump. I mean, what else can you do?” a woman recently told CNN in the hotel lobby. “We come here and we support him.”