The War on Coronavirus Comes to Trump Properties 1

Reeling from the global fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, President Trump’s family business has cut back hotel operations, closed some golf courses and restaurants and shed dozens of workers — all while pushing to keep other properties open and promote them on social media.

In recent days, the Trump Organization cut staff from hotels in New York and Washington, halted new reservations at a hotel overlooking the Las Vegas Strip and closed golf courses in Los Angeles and the Miami area, according to people with knowledge of the matter. It also closed the Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, which normally would be at a peak right now, with regular seasonal visits by Mr. Trump himself.

The cutbacks, expected to continue in coming days, were a last resort, a company executive said, as the priority had been keeping thousands of employees and contract workers on the job. The company has a portfolio of more than a dozen golf clubs and at least partially owns or operates five-star hotels in Chicago, Hawaii, Las Vegas, New York, Vancouver and Washington, as well as Ireland and Scotland.

Generally, the company has folded the tent only when local authorities mandated it, despite a growing national urgency to limit social gatherings and close nonessential businesses. In an interview, Eric Trump, the president’s son who manages the family business, said the company was trying to limit shutdowns.

“As an organization we are following federal, state and local direction and guidance very carefully,” he said.

For those properties that remain open, the company has continued promotional campaigns on social media and through direct email.

On Friday morning, Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point, a public course in the Bronx, invited guests on Twitter to play a round: “Looking to get some #freshair? The golf course is a great place to relieve stress and exercise social distancing #openingday.”

Similarly, the president’s golf club in Hudson Valley, N.Y., was closed for the winter season but opened its course to members on Wednesday as a sort of cure for cabin fever, according to an email reviewed by The New York Times.

“Governor Cuomo has recommended that we use public spaces and parks for exercise and relaxation,” the club said in the email to members. “With this in mind, we are opening the golf course to give you an opportunity to get out of the house and enjoy the great outdoors!”

The Trump Organization will undoubtedly take a major hit from the coronavirus crisis, though it is relatively well positioned, in part because it has a small overall share of debt compared with other major real estate companies, and because it has increasingly relied on rental revenue from office buildings in New York and San Francisco.

So far, the company has avoided the widespread shutdowns some larger hotel chains have taken on, such as the Hilton Worldwide Holdings, which is closing the bulk of its properties in major cities.

Chip Rogers, president and chief executive of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, a trade group, said this was the more common approach right now in the industry.

“The vast majority of hotels that are dependent on business or leisure travel don’t have the occupancy to stay open right now,” he said.

In the interview, Eric Trump explained that, unlike large hotel chains, the Trump Organization had the flexibility to make case-by-case decisions.

“All of the associates in our company are family, and we are all awaiting the moment this pandemic is defeated so we can reopen and get back to work, running the best assets in the world,” Mr. Trump said.

For now, the president’s company has continued to accept new reservations at its hotels in Chicago and on Central Park West in New York. But the New York hotel is shedding staff, laying off 40 employees so far, and reducing the hours of others, according to a person familiar with the matter.

In a letter to owners of hotel units in the building on Thursday, Matthew Vandegrift, general manager of the property, called it an “unprecedented event” and warned of a “significant shortfall in revenues.”

“While we recognize that hope is not a strategy, I can assure you we are thoroughly analyzing expenses,” Mr. Vandegrift wrote, in the letter obtained by The Times. “Strategies have been deployed to mitigate the expected financial losses as a result of COVID-19.”

Also this week, the Trump Organization shuttered most amenities inside its Washington hotel — the restaurant, bar and spa — to comply with a local order. Ordinarily a magnet for Republican officials and lobbyists, the property was turning away anyone without a room key or a reservation on Wednesday.

Mickael Damelincourt, the managing director, posted a message on Twitter showing the hotel’s empty lobby. “A sleepy America’s Living Room … Ready to rebound bigger than ever … Be safe everyone!!!” he wrote.

The hotel has roughly 5 percent occupancy, and 95 percent of the staff is not working at the moment, according to John Boardman, the executive secretary-treasurer of Unite Here Local 25, a union with 174 workers at the hotel. He called it a “real skeleton staff” in the same predicament as other nearby hotels. The union is negotiating benefits for displaced workers with the Trump hotel and others.

“The industry is devastated,” Mr. Boardman said. “It is devastated in the near term, and what we are starting to see is a round of longer-term cancellations as the uncertainty increases. We are not expecting people to be called back to work any time soon.”

Over the past week, several Trump businesses, on their various social media accounts, gave little sense that something was amiss. The Doral resort near Miami suggested a Friday the 13th game of golf and a round of drinks at the bar. On Monday, the Westchester, N.Y., golf club showed off its 101-foot waterfall. And on Sunday, the Washington hotel invited guests to join in for “Dessert Night” on Fridays.

But by Wednesday morning, many of the accounts posted an American flag and a variation of a message sending well wishes to patrons during “these uncertain times.”

As recently as last Saturday morning, the Trump golf club in Bedminster, N.J., e notified members of plans to “remain open,” adding, “We hope that you and your families will continue to see it as a place where you can relax and enjoy the terrific weather we’re having before spring has even started,” an email reviewed by The Times said.

That night, the club hosted a private party, a person with knowledge of the gathering said.

But after Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey instituted various restrictions on recreational businesses, the club notified its members on Tuesday that although they could still play golf, there would be no caddies, or pretty much any other services. “Wash your hands!” the email exhorted.

The president’s Mar-a-Lago club was the site of events earlier in March that included several people who have since been confirmed to have coronavirus, including two Brazilian officials who accompanied President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil to a dinner with Mr. Trump at the resort on March 7.

Last week, The Trump Organization sent out a notice to Mar-a-Lago members notifying them that the club would be cleaned on Monday but remain open the rest of the week.

Now, the club has closed, at least temporarily, based on calls for social distancing.

Not far away, at the golf resort in Doral, another of Mr. Trump’s highest-profile properties, the company was still accepting new reservations on Friday, though it had shut down its courses and restaurants. Still, according to a hotel employee, the family pool remained open.

Reporting was contributed by Zach Montague, Neil Reisner and William K. Rashbaum.