Arts

Waldorf Hotel in Vancouver closing

By Vancity Buzz Staff | 2:00 pm PST, Wed January 9, 2013 | Speak Up

According to an email Scout Magazine received, the East Vancouver cultural hub, The Waldorf Hotel, will be closing it’s doors for good on January 20, 2012. This is a severe blow to the arts scene in the city as the Waldorf did wonders in the three short years it was open.

Below is the email as published by Scout Magazine.

East Vancouver’s cultural institution the Waldorf Hotel has been sold to real estate development company forcing imminent closure.

The Waldorf Hotel re-opened its doors on October 31, 2010 with a vision: create a welcoming cultural hub in the heart of East Vancouver. Prior to this, the complex, which was built in 1947, had seen better days, and was just one of many dilapidated Eastside dive bars. But in the summer of 2010, a 15-year lease was signed by a group of partners led by Thomas Anselmi, Ernesto Gomez, Scott Cohen, and Daniel Fazio. They proceeded at great financial and sweat equity costs, with no assistance from the landlord, to restore the building to its former glory.

A restaurant, hotel rooms, a world renowned tiki bar, two nightclub spaces, a recording studio, and an art gallery were housed under the re-imagined Waldorf’s roof. It was embraced by the community and dubbed “a Cultural Oasis in the middle of nowhere” by the Globe and Mail.

The Waldorf was well on its way to growing into an economically viable and profitable business. But, given the scope of the project and its “middle of nowhere” location, it should come as no surprise that the first year was a financially difficult one. The landlord, Marko Puharich, was sympathetic and understanding and some rent was forgiven to give the project breathing room. But in August 2012, the landlord’s attitude changed overnight and it was baffling. Phone calls stopped being answered. Emails and texts were unreturned. A smug litigator, rather than the jovial landlord, became the point of contact. The property was on the market and the landlord was using the Waldorf’s growing pains to break the lease.

In early January 2013, Anselmi and Gomez were informed that the complex had been sold to the Solterra Group of Companies, a condominium developer. “Solterra were unwilling to sit down and discuss negotiating long-term lease possibilities. We were offered a week-to-week lease until September 2013, when the property must be delivered vacant. We obviously can’t move forward under these conditions as our business requires commitments to artists, organizations and entertainers months in advance,” Anselmi explains. He then adds: “This has cost 60 people their jobs. This has destroyed our business.

“The irony that the Waldorf was taken over by a condo developer in the very area we helped reinvigorate is obvious to anyone. The Waldorf filled a void. People responded because they needed it. We tried to stand for something authentic and real in a city with thousands of empty condominiums and a community starved for cultural spaces,” says Anselmi.

During its tenure, institutions like the Cheaper Show, the East Side Culture Crawl, the New Forms Festival, the Polaris Music Prize, the Presentation House Gallery, the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival, the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival, the Vancouver Art Gallery, and the Vancouver International Film Festival all held events at the Waldorf. And the city’s top culture producers like Black Mountain, Douglas Coupland, Rodney Graham, Grimes, Japandroids, Michael Turner, and Paul Wong all headlined events here as well. “On top of international entertainment programming every weekend, the team was constantly working towards the next big event, such as Food Cart Festival and our legendary hotel-wide Halloween and New Year’s Eve Parties,” Fazio recalls. “We were always trying to out-do ourselves.”

Everyone at the Waldorf takes great pride in the fact that the complex was operated as a community-oriented cultural institution. The Waldorf had an open door policy. Countless emerging artists, non-profits, and community groups were facilitated. The Chef-in-Residence program devised by Gomez and Cesar De La Parra hosted international culinary stars, Bob Blumer, Rodolfo Sanchez, and Pedro Martin. The Waldorf hosted an international artist-in-residence program for musicians and visual artists in collaboration with the Goethe-Institut and the French Consulate.

“We would like to extend our sincere gratitude to all the people who supported the Waldorf since we reopened our doors. We’re extremely proud of all the artists and events that we’ve hosted over last two and a half years. We’re extremely proud of our incredible staff who helped to execute world class events,” says Gomez.

The Waldorf will be vacated on Sunday, January 20, 2013. The Waldorf was nothing without its creative team and they are currently looking for a new space where they can continue to develop the high quality and eclectic arts and entertainment programming that the complex has become known for and that Vancouverites want and deserve.

It looks as though more condos will be going up in place of The Waldorf. Let’s hope that Thomas Anselmi and Ernesto Gomez are successful in finding another space that will allow the arts community to thrive.

Speak Up

  • guest

    I’m so incredibly tired of seeing this happen with any place that tries to make this city a more entertaining place to live. Soon we’re going to be left with a bunch of fish bowls in the sky that serve only to view the natural beauty of the city with none of the culture. 

  • Giovanna

    So typical of Vancouver. Why can’t we follow in the same footsteps as other cities like San Francisco. At least they appreciate the old establishments. For instance take a look at the Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar at the Fairmont Hotel; it’s been around since 1945.

  • wendythirteen

    MY CONDOLENCES AND GOOD LUCK IN THE FUTURE….. wendythirteen

  • Rstevens

    typical vancouver. no surprise.

  • Tyler Griffeth

    I guess you and your friends should go to places like the Waldorf more often to help them pay the rent.

  • Guest

    This is disgusting. We hardly have any culture as it is in this city, and yet we continue to tear down anything remotely symbolizing heritage, history and entertainment in place of some shiny, empty, soulless space that isn’t even realistically obtainable to the middle-class working civilian; the last thing we need are more condos that nobody can afford. 
    Screw you, Vancouver.

  • rondee123

    And how do you know this person has not been? Like myself – I feel the same way – AND have been going there…. 

  • rondee123

    Hmm – will there be a closing party?

  • Tyler Griffeth

    The Waldorf hotel is a truly beautiful venue, however it is just a building.  If we want to have a vibrant arts community in Vancouver then we need to start showing support for artists and art.  Feeling outrage after the fact is showing support, it is hypocrisy.

  • Tyler Griffeth

    Sorry, outrage is NOT support.

  • Travis

    http://www.vancouversun.com/sports/Bowlers+city+spare+beloved+Varsity+Ridge+alley/7365591/story.html
    Another sad story.  I just went over to the Ridge since its close to my work and the signs for new condos are already up.  Looks like they lost the battle. 

  • AJ Smyth

    Great another ugly apartment tower, most likely with crappy floor plans that will sell out in days to more asians. Man this city really is becoming bushleague. 

  • Damien

    You’re stuck in the past. (It’s 2013.)

  • Guest

    Oh yeah, that’s the spirit! Racism! The city could use less of that, too but we’ve digressed.

  • Guest

    Why does it have to be either, or? This building helped A LOT in supporting artists and art. I can’t think of a better way to show support for artists then sending a clear message to developers that they can’t keep doing this and not expect to be loathed. If they’re planning on adding to this community, they better learn how to be a part of one first.

  • Guest

    You’re a jerk. If they had the money to organize more events, we would. If we had the money to go to every single one of those events, we would. If you’re trying to be the one with another POV, don’t do it just to point the blame at everyone else. Jerk.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ctsoukalas1 Colleen Tsoukalas

    Once the Art Gallery vacates its space, maybe they could move in.  Imagine what vibrant events could happen!  So sorry, Waldorf.  Loved the vintage sales there.  Let me know if there’s anything special you’d like me to blog.  colleen @clotheslinefinds.com

  • guest

    Went every other week for the food truck event, attended many of the ice cream socials, and made it out whenever we could for live music. But you’re correct I probably should have lived there full time…

  • http://twitter.com/dj_docd Dr. Damien Otis

    This is why I’m leaving this city when I graduate. It’s a cultural wasteland. 

  • Katherine

    I am so sorry to hear this. Best of luck finding a new location and please, keep it up! We love you!

  • SpiralOut91

    Just started going to this place for club nights on the weekend. Had no idea about it’s impact on the art community. What a wild place this has been.

    Are there anymore places like this out there?

  • Guest

    Unfortunately not. There are venues with a similar vibe, but absolutely nothing compared to the capacity, calendar and accessibility found at the Waldorf.

  • SpiralOut91

    Woooow, you just ruined my life

  • Svenfulber

    What an absolute shame. I am not sure if this speaks more to the anemic cultural scene or the harsh economic realities of Vancouver. I was born and raised here, and moved to Europe this past year. While everyone thinks that the “grass is greener on the other side”, I can tell you that while Europe has great culture, economics are playing their part in eroding the wealth of culture there too. Ask anyone that lives in Berlin…

    While I hope for a miracle to save the Waldorf, the one bar I truly enjoyed on my visit back to Vancouver, I realize it may fall on deaf ears. As my life wont be

    Perhaps we can consider what is really unfortunate, which is the loss of 60 jobs and the impact felt by their families.

  • Cigraham

    Boo

  • SAVE THE WALDORF!
  • Trayseasuckscockfor50dollars

    Traysea Lee Stelmack says:

    The native kid who works Friday nights at the Waldorf would give me a free crack for a hand-j… I hope the place doesn’t close or I can’t get high!

  • Guest

    The old Canadian tire was ripped out in a week and the old mazda dealer store next door turned into a pre-construction sales center.

  • julian

    “Soon we’re going to be left with a bunch of fish bowls in the sky that serve only to view the natural beauty of the city with none of the culture” BEST QUOTE #vancouver