Records Show Contractor Payment Dispute on the Fancy, Failed Restaurant Omerta

A new downtown hotel, called the Dossier, has struggled.


On Dec. 6, 2017, WW and published a story about Gordon Sondland under the headline "Records Show Portland Hotelier Gordon Sondland Stopped Paying His Contractor on the Fancy, Failed Restaurant Omerta," which was located in the Dossier Hotel. This headline was inaccurate and misleading.

Gordon Sondland did not "stop paying," "refuse to pay," "stiff," or "short-pay" any contractors on the Dossier Hotel project. WW regrets the error.

Additionally, the contractor at issue in the article, Slattery Inc., is a trade contractor who recorded a construction claim of lien on the Dossier Hotel (identified in the claim of lien as "Westin Hotel") identifying James E. John Construction Co. Inc. as the lien debtor and Portland Hotel LLC as the owner of the property. Slattery Inc.'s claim of lien asserted a balance due of $75,880.60 relating to change orders. Portland Hotel LLC owns the Dossier Hotel. Gordon Sondland and several other investors have an ownership interest in Portland Hotel LLC. Gordon Sondland, individually, does not own the Dossier Hotel. The contractual relationship on which Slattery Inc.'s claim of lien is based is with James E. John Construction Co. Inc., the prime contractor with Portland Hotel LLC on the project at issue, not with Provenance Hotels or Gordon Sondland. Neither Provenance Hotels nor Gordon Sondland individually has a contractual relationship with James E. John Construction Co. Inc. or with subcontractors working on, or who have worked on, the Dossier Hotel project, including Slattery Inc. Neither Provenance Hotels nor Gordon Sondland individually has a payment obligation to those contractors or subcontractors. WW regrets the errors.

Original story:

Portland's leading hotelier, Gordon Sondland, has spent heavily to curry favor with President Donald Trump, including a million-dollar donation to inaugural parties.

New public documents suggest Sondland is modeling himself on Trump in another way: by stiffing the contractors remodeling his downtown hotel.

One of those contractors says Sondland's refusal to pay for woodwork at the Portland hotel, called the Dossier, put his mom-and-pop contracting firm out of business.

Rob Slattery, whose carpenters did all the woodwork for the Dossier's bar, restaurant and lobby, says his firm recently closed after Sondland refused to pay him the last $76,000 he was owed. "It may not sound like a lot of money, but it was make or break for us," Slattery says. "He put us out of business. It's been devastating."

Jim McDermott, an attorney for Sondland's company, says contract disputes are routine in multimillion-dollar projects like the Dossier remodel. "Ninety percent of the money has been paid," McDermott says. "This is a run-of-the mill dispute between a subcontractor [Slattery] and the general contractor [J.E. John Construction]."

The dispute between a high-profile hotelier and his contractors echoes the 2016 presidential race, during which reporters treated voters to numerous accounts of Donald J. Trump, the nation's best-known hotel magnate, failing to pay contractors on time or in full.

After Trump's victory last year, Sondland contributed $1 million to the president-elect's inaugural festivities, giving the money through obscure businesses unfamiliar to most Portlanders.

Now, as the Trump administration considers whether to bestow an ambassadorship on Sondland—The Oregonian reported in October he was being vetted—Sondland is allegedly emulating the president by short-paying his contractors.

Earlier this year, Sondland's company, Provenance Hotels, which owns oroperates the Lucier, the Sentinel, the Benson and the Heathman, rebranded the Westin Hotel at 750 SW Alder St., renaming it the Dossier.

Inside his new hotel, Sondland's company splurged on five-star, New York-style glitz. Sondland scrapped the Westin's nondescript restaurant and bar, replacing them with Opal, a luxurious cocktail lounge, and a basement Italian restaurant, Omertà—an Italian term that means "code of silence."

The woodwork alone cost $380,000, according to a construction lien Slattery Inc. filed last month against Sondland's Portland Hotel LLC seeking payment for the last $76,000 of that total.

Despite some positive reviews (WW was less kind), Omertà closed in November, just three months after opening. That failure led to questions of whether the Dossier's management misread Portland tastes.

Related: Hey, the expensive, odd Italian spot we reviewed in last week's paper is closing.

Slattery says he's not the only one who didn't get paid. "I know there are significant disputes with others," he says.

Other contractors who worked on the Dossier remodel, including J.E. John and restaurant management company ChefStable, are honoring the code of silence: They declined to comment.

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.