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This is not the type of attention a small hotel chain wants.
Portland, Oregon-based Provenance Hotels is mired in a public relations mess due to the role its founder and current EU U.S. Ambassador Gordon Sondland had in trying to broker a deal with Ukraine in exchange for a potentially damaging investigation against former Vice President Joe Biden. Since President Donald Trump canceled Sondland’s appearance before a Congressional impeachment committee on October 8, calls for a boycott of the boutique chain have gained steam.
Democratic Congressman Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, whose district includes a large swath of Portland, called for the boycott of Provenance’s properties on Twitter the next day.
“No one who cares about America should do any business or stay at any of Gordon Sondland’s hotels until he fulfills his duty as a citizen to testify & turn over all relevant documents to the House,” he tweeted.
The #BoycottProvenanceHotels campaign has yet to subside, even as a date for Sondland’s rescheduled testimony approaches.
Protestors demonstrated on Sunday in front of one of the chain’s Portland properties — The Heathman Hotel. Sondland said he would appear before the impeachment committee this Thursday.
The Provenance Hotels portfolio consists of 14 properties. More than half are located in Oregon and Washington state — two areas where anti-Trump sentiment runs high and any campaign targeting businesses supportive of Trump would find a receptive audience.
The boutique hotel chain did not take the congressman’s call to action lightly. In response, Provenance Hotels filed an ethics complaint against Blumenauer over the weekend, accusing him of misusing his position to threaten Sondland. But company officials also distanced themselves from the diplomat, saying he no longer had any executive duties with the company. His wife, Katherine Durant, serves as chairman.
Blumenauer’s statement may already be having an effect. Since the tweet appeared, artisanal ice cream maker Salt and Straw, also based in Portland, announced that it would cease selling its products in Provenance Hotels but did not cite a specific reason for the decision.
A commercial real estate broker in Seattle at the time, Sondland’s career as a hotel proprietor began in 1985 when he was 28 years old when he obtained funding to buy an aging bankrupt hotel his company had planned to list. He then gave that building a complete makeover before reopening it as an upscale property. Since then, Provenance Hotels has expanded in a similar manner, typically acquiring older or historic buildings and renovating or converting them into modern luxury hotels.
In the past five years, the company has expanded its footprint, transforming itself from what was a small Pacific Northwest brand into a national boutique chain. Since 2015, new properties have opened in New Orleans, Boston, and Minnesota, while establishments in Wisconsin and Indiana are currently under development.
In an op-ed published in The Oregonian this past weekend, Provenance Hotels President Bashar Wali claimed that Sondland was now simply a minority investor in the company and that the hotel group had no influence with the State Department. Wali also called Blumenauer’s attempted boycott a “horribly irresponsible attempt to hurt our business, those who do business with us and our employees.”