Nearly 3,000 workers have been laid off due to the Monday closure of the Trump Taj Mahal, a sprawling Atlantic City resort and casino that Donald Trump once called “the eighth wonder of the world.” Many of those affected worked in the Taj’s restaurants, almost all of which are now closed. The casino opened to much fanfare in 1990, but ultimately fell into bankruptcy under the ownership of the Republican presidential nominee.
Restaurants at the Taj included Dynasty, Il Mulino New York, Moon at Dynasty, and Robert's Steakhouse. The Trump taj was also the home of Scores, the country's first in-casino strip club. There’s also a Hard Rock Cafe, though that restaurant plans to stay open for now (unlike some of the other restaurants on the property, the Hard Rock can be accessed through the boardwalk entrance).
The Taj opened in a decidedly Trumpian fashion: It was promoted as a place bursting with glitz, glamour, and excess — though words like “gaudy” likely offer a more accurate description. Its opening came amidst a a series of wasteful construction costs. As the New York Times reported in 1990: “To succeed, the Taj needs record-breaking revenues—variously estimated at $1 million to $1.3 million a day — to meet its overhead and the roughly $100 million annual service on its $725 million in debt.”
At the time, Trump claimed the casino’s success was a sure thing, telling the Times: ''Nobody wants to believe how big this thing is going to be.” Things went south quickly, though, and the resort-casino came to the brink of closure when its parent company went through bankruptcy. Eventually, billionaire investor Carl Icahn took over and Trump’s stake in the casino was wiped out — though the glitzy facade still bears his name.
It seems Trump left Icahn with little more than that facade, though. In a statement, Icahn said he lost nearly $350 million on the project and was ultimately unable to save it.
On Monday morning, the Taj became the fifth casualty of Atlantic City's casino crisis, officially shutting down at 5:59 a.m. after failing to reach a deal with union workers. As part of the bankruptcy, Taj workers saw their health care and pension benefits stripped. They offered Icahn a proposal to restore those benefits, though it wasn't accepted. After negotiations fell through, the Taj announced it would cease operations entirely.
Bob McDevitt, President of Unite Here Local 54 (the hospitality industry union organizing the healthcare negotiations on behalf of Taj workers), said the boardwalk “is littered with empty monuments” to Icahn’s greed. “If this is the guy Donald Trump wants to be Treasury Secretary of the United States, then this country is doomed,” said McDevitt in a statement.
The closure of the Taj won’t be the end of Trump’s union woes. Unite Here recently launched a national boycott of Trump’s businesses, urging customers not to eat, sleep, or play at Trump hotels and golf courses until Trump starts bargaining with the union over a first contract.
Many of those who eventually turned to picketing the Taj had worked there since its 1990 opening. And they aren’t the only ones upset with Trump. One Atlantic City pizzeria banned Trump from eating in its establishment, but offered a discount to any employees of his casinos simply because they have to “look at his name every day.”
The Chicago Tribune reports that 11,000 people have lost their jobs since 2014 due to Atlantic City casino closures. For the workers at the Taj, the official closure came with a twist of irony: their former boss, the man who had shepherded the casino into bankruptcy in the first place, is currently running for the highest office in the country. A big part of his platform? Job creation.