IRONY: Waldorf Hotel Set To Close January 20th After Being Sold To Condo Developers

January 9, 2013.

From the Department of What The Fuck comes a piece of news that we really didn’t see coming! From the inbox:

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.

Just…wow. Sometimes, Vancouver, we want to leave you.

UPDATE: Sign the online petition to stop the rezoning of the building for condos here.

  • AW


    Eventually they will have to listen.
    There are a few sympathetic councillors at City Hall.
    Don’t vote for Vision Vancouver next time. Tell them you won’t. They might care enough about their careers to stand up for what their constituents want.

  • bren

    very sickening, if would be great if we could boycott the new building, make sure nobody goes to live there

  • edwin

    Not even Mark Brand could save this spot.

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  • TrixieDixie

    I agree that it was a great multi-space venue that had a number of interesting musical acts and other cultural events but after frequenting it for a while in the first few months of it’s re-opening I stopped going. I found the service to be seriously lacking, the attitudes of the staff to be intolerable, and the prices to be inflated. The operators screwed up when they broke their own 15-year lease in favour of a 4-month lease that forgave them some of the rent they couldn’t pay. Perhaps they were too ambitious in trying to “out do themselves” and spent beyond their means. Perhaps there was another reason they couldn’t make rent. But I imagine that must have made the owner a bit nervous and they were entirely within their rights to sell. As another person here wrote, we should be thanking the owner of the building for keeping it going as long as they did. I had a lot of good times in the old Tiki room long before the re-envisioning of the place by the current operators came along. Thanks to the owners for years of good memories and best of luck to the operators in their future endeavours. They had a great idea and hopefully lessons can be learned from this undertaking to make the next one more successful.

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  • Joe

    who cares? i wouldn’t consider this establishment a cultural institution, rather, a place where young hipsters can get “waisted” and do cocaine.

  • Denise Jones

    Save the Waldorf! This is something so special and I can’t imagine this city without it. I can literally remember dancing my heart out in my early twenties at their legendary parties… to now going to party in the Tiki room … waking up and going for brunch… to last summer having my wedding after party there. I took it for granted that it would always be there. The city response to the venue really made me believe that it couldn’t end. This is too important.. let’s all comment on all the sites we can and spread the word to stand up against no fun Vancouver, condo garbage Vancouver and demand the kind of community spirit and culturally responsible investment this city so desperately needs.

  • JC

    I don’t particularly like the Waldorf. It’s not my scene. However I do know a good thing for the city when I see one and that is the Waldorf. What is happening here is wrong. Any petitions or support initiatives that come up I will support.

  • Moved On

    Vancouver is a corrupt, souless, tribal village ruled by imbeciles who will kill you and leave your corpse at the side of the road after they’ve stolen your clothes plus fucked your girlfriend for good measure. This kind of cultural genocide has been going on for decades. Move away and you’ll feel better.

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  • Cheezwiz

    It’s probably pointless (and maybe a bit childish), but anyone wanting to enjoy a big dose of schadenfreude should take a gander at the developer’s facebook page, and witness the complete meltdown/short-circuiting of their comments section before it’s taken down altogether:

  • jordan
  • Kalynka

    Someone (clearly not the landlord) needs to push for this site to be listed as heritage. I would do some research, but an no longer a resident of Vancouver and so can’t do anything. If anyone is interested it’s not too hard, but does take some research :
    Please save this site!!! The last thing the city needs is another construction site and overpriced flats.

  • Cliff Whitney

    They reopened on my birthday…… Sad to see it go

  • Geoff

    this is a sad day for small to medium size businesses, tough times and no help from banks or the government in financing solutions for the hospitality industry! It is too bad that landlords do not offer to sell first to the tenant, we as entrepreneurs need to get smarter and find more leverage so the little guys can stick together!

  • Miles

    I’m more concerned about losing the literal building than I am an elitist “cultural oasis” that only preaches to its own choir.

    Cultural institutions like the Waldorf don’t necessarily have to literally give back to the community or inspire children to read, their presence can be enough to allow for a great alternative to the Donnelly Group, but its frustrating when groups like this cry “oppression!” when their niche-marketed tiki drinks for graphic designers and urban-beekeepers don’t pay their rent.

    I want to make my thing too, but I don’t think I’m owed something when the broader public doesn’t rush to crowd-fund my introspective web comic or whatever.

  • rr

    At some point, though, institutions like the Waldorf (and Richards on Richards) should be considered city amenities. Just like parks with large playgrounds are considered sacred amenities for families, we need places for 20-somethings to go, support the artistic community, and meet each other. Otherwise, we’re sliding backward to become a city where the only things to do on a Friday night are eat/drink at some pub.

    And all this nonsense of the Waldorf being just for hipsters and cokeheads, that’s crap. One of my favourite evenings there was Megaphone’s poetry readings where members of their community writing workshops came and read about their experiences. They found a way to connect people from vastly different ends of the social spectrum, and the waldorf offered a place to host it. There’s immense value in that for buildling a city’s character and community, and one that shouldn’t be so easily dismissed.

  • Moved On

    Not too mention inhabited by cartoon watching, comic book reading, video game playing, cafe commando technologists who (secretly) enjoy being sodomized by imbeciles after the real (wo)men have been killed. Really. Leave already and trust in the knowledge that you will feel better.

  • John

    “Sometimes, Vancouver, we want to leave you.”

    Nelson baby. Nelson. That’s where we split to aver Commercial Dr. lost its soul.

  • John

    “… when their niche-marketed tiki drinks for graphic designers and urban-beekeepers don’t pay their rent.”

    They were too busy doing the landlords job, paying to fix up the skid-row building.

  • spiceman

    This whole thing just sucks, entirely.

    I see it from several sides as a patron of the Waldorf, a modest land owner in that neighborhood, and a modest business owner.

    I am with Miles, there needs to be a way to preserve noteworthy buildings, and if that saves some of the businesses that come with it, all the better.

    John is ridiculous. While it is unfortunate that the land owner would let well meaning entrepreneurs invest money, time and sweat and rip the rug out from beneath them, a lease is a lease, if he has a legal way out of it, those guys should have recognized that as a major flag when investing in the project.

  • Tracey

    Maybe this is a wake up call to stop putting up with our history getting torn down. I’m a fourth generation Vancouverite and this saddens me terribly.

  • Leo

    I sat let it go. Why bother trying to salvage a memory of the past? Let it die along with the rest of East Vancouver. The problem with conservatives is that they never know when the uselessness is gone and want to preserve something that stands in the way of progress. Housing is more important than the memories of a few old timers who themselves are destined to remain in a past era like stoneagism and religion.

  • Dave Murphy

    To Leo 1/15/13 at 12:41am: Dude, chill out. Some liberal folks around you are actually smart enough to recognize when “useless things” are worth keeping around to fend off the sterility of what many like you enjoy pretending is “progress.”

  • Leo

    Dear Mr. Murphy:

    Give it up. The Waldorf is and has always been rodent infested and mold dominated just like all the building on the East Vancouver area; a hornets nest of horny purveyors for Bingo the Money God and ghastly deals that infest its inhabitants with mind parasites.

    Wood rots after decades no matter how many coats of paint the outside has. It is not worth the effort to disinfect the pathogens of the past lying dormant awaiting unsuspecting do-gooders.

    Memories of sloshing around in alcohol induced vomit, drunken orgies, fights and mayhem every weekend is not anything to relish. LEVEL IT and say adios to a bygone era and good riddance. To save a dead business, a dead building and hope for TOURISTS TO ROAM their eyes lovingly? at a skeleton that awaits the Second Coming to re-flesh deceased bones that supernaturalists from Hollywood might make a reality show about. IT’S OVER, get over it and move forward into the future instead of living in the past for pete’s sake. This reminds me about the debates so many preservationists had trying to save single family dwellings that were being demolished to make room for multi family living as high rises rose to accommodate population growth but the single family preservationists wanted a “s p r a w l i n g” city like the villages of Afghanistan instead of coming into modernity.

    The tradition of making smoke signals to communicate with the world is the way of religion, dogma, stoneagism and backwardness as recently witnessed at the Vatican while the religious supernatural masses looked on for the right smoke signals to applaud their approval; what guffaw in a secular world.

    If it wasn’t for nonsense Dave, you and your ilk, would have no sense at all!

  • rr

    Gotta love the internet. Where else would I have discovered Bingo the Money God on a quiet Friday afternoon?

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