Donald Trump is used to the spotlight, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to play by all the rules.
On Tuesday night, the 70-year-old businessman sneaked out of Trump Tower and headed to 21 Club, a steakhouse about four blocks away – much to the surprise of diners at the restaurant, and the press pool he had ditched.
Bloomberg reporter Taylor Riggs, who happened to be dining at the 21 Club, tweeted a photo of Trump and some of his transition team, noting that they entered the restaurant to a “standing ovation and cheers.”
Trump shook hands with patrons and said, “We’ll get your taxes down — don’t worry about it,” according to a video shared on Twitter by Bradd Jaffy of NBC Nightly News.
“He is having dinner with his family,” Trump’s spokesperson Hope Hicks told the outlet.
As social media spread word of Trump’s outing, the reporters tasked with covering the president-elect expressed their frustration because they had been told that Trump was home for the night and planned no more outings.
“Not unusual for a president-elect to visit a local restaurant. What IS unusual: calling a lid: press parlance for ‘that’s all, folks!’ first,” Hallie Jackson of NBC News wrote on Twitter. “This is about being conduit to Americans on basic whereabouts of president-elect.”
Hicks had told Trump’s press pool that he was done for the night around 6:15 p.m. However, he and family members left the secured home an hour and 15 minutes later in an unannounced motorcade.
Hicks informed journalists that she was unaware of Trump’s plans.
Reporters rushed to the restaurant, where cops allowed some local reporters to stay while others were moved down the block, where their view was blocked by a dumpster.
Trump’s motorcade arrived back at Trump Tower around 9:45 p.m.
Jeff Mason, president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, called Trump’s attempted-escape from the media “unacceptable.”
“One week after the election, it is unacceptable for the next president of the United States to travel without a regular pool to record his movements and inform the public about his whereabouts,” he wrote in a statement. “The White House Correspondents’ Association is pleased to hear reassurances by the Trump transition team that it will respect long-held traditions of press access at the White House and support a pool structure. But the time to act on that promise is now.”
He continued, “Pool reporters are in place in New York to cover the president-elect as he assembles his new administration. It is critical that they be allowed to do their jobs.”
“We are still in the process of formalizing a protective pool structure and look forward to implementing that as soon as possible,” Hicks told PEOPLE.