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Waldorf Hotel To Go Boutique With Refit & New Restaurants…


This is so rad that I have goosebumps and its like 29 degrees here in the vineyard’s shade…

The 63-year old Waldorf Hotel at 1489 East Hastings, originally designed by Mercer & Mercer in a (then) modern style, has been picked up by restaurateur Ernesto Gomez (Nuba, etc), architect Scott Cohen (Gastropod, etc) and musician Thomas Anselmi (Copyright, etc). They are now in the midst of renovating the iconic but much neglected 30 room hotel with a complete concept/branding overhaul and “boutique” status being the ultimate goal. We were given the exclusive details a couple of days ago.

Here’s the choice pull quote from the creative brief:

In 1955, capitalizing on an emerging interest in Tiki Culture, the complex was transformed into a “tiki” themed hotel. Original architects Mercer and Mercer restyled the existing decor, replacing the minimalist features of their original design with an exotic motif influenced by tribal cultures of the Polynesian islands. The newly renovated Waldorf quickly became known for providing a unique dining and entertaining experience that included authentic Polynesian cuisine, art, music and dancing. Catering to an affluent clientele of executives, citizens, visitors and guests, the hotel was an immediate success. This prosperity continued up until the 70s when, as the neighborhood found itself in decline and it’s clientele began to shift down market. Several attempts to revive the hotel in the subsequent years have not been successful at restoring its iconic status […] The group see potential to re-enter the market as a boutique hotel, targeting a different clientele. A dominant trend in the hospitality industry over the past ten years, boutique hotels have emerged as a popular option for smaller sized properties looking to appeal to customers who wish to have a unique experience when visiting a hotel. In the local economy there are high-end hotels that have a “boutique” strategy but none that cater to a mid-range customer. In many other markets this positioning has proved very successful, examples include: The Drake in Toronto, The Ace in Seattle, The Jupiter in Portland. The Waldorf aims to offer the same type of cultural experience for a midrange price creating a totally unique positioning for itself in the local economy.

In addition to their aesthetic and creative assets in Cohen and Anselmi, the partners have brought in chef Ned Bell of Kelowna’s Cabana to lead the food and beverage side of the operation. If you’re notfamiliar with the guy, he was once upon a time a sous chef to Rob Feenie and a Food Network star in his own right. I’ve known him for a few years now and he’s got serious game. His new playground will see a 120 seat “value-oriented” cafe showcasing hotel classics and Pan-American street food at Nuba prices (ie. cheap), a 60 seat dining room for Basque and Southern French fare at bistro prices, and a 100 seat patio (arriving next summer) serving Mexican seafood from an outdoor grill. On the Liquor Primary side, they’re keeping the 97 seat Tiki bar as close to the original as possible with exotic drinks and DJs spinning vinyl on an all-analogue stereo system featuring vintage Lansings Hartsfield speakers.

If that wasn’t kickass enough, they’re also creating a state of the art multi-media performance hall licensed for 300 people and playing host to the new location of Barbarella, the popular Main St. salon and barbershop. Throw in multiple projectors playing looped films throughout the building, a recording studio in the basement, and regular gigs of live music, theatre, comedy, and performance art, and you have a hurricane of change coming to East Hastings. The official launch will see a 3 day opening party on the weekend of Halloween.

Like I said, goosebumps…

I’ll be going into much more detail in a upcoming Vancouver magazine article on the current eastward gravitational pull of our restaurant scene, so that’s all for now.

There are 51 comments

  1. Sounds like a lot of potential for greatness. Where will we all go to get our fix of Tahitian lounge?

  2. The same place! They aren’t changing the Tahitian lounge much. Just making it better methinks.

  3. FINALLY. Vancouver was desperate for someone to do this. Now dig up the parking lot and put in a Pool Club, a la Ace, Palm Springs.

  4. Sounds like it could only get better if they sourced their booze exclusively from Waldorf Wine group (makes sense to me).

  5. Mega score to this neighborhood. With the Raja theater being revamped (*hopefully) a few blocks away this area is really changing.

  6. Really excited about this and will visit Vancouver just to experience Tom Anselmi’s multi media project when it’s up and running!

  7. That last bit about DJs playing vinyl and on an analog system sounds just too good to be true but colour me genuinely excited.

  8. Not the final nail in the coffin of the DTES, but a wake-up call that this is now a Yuppie Zone.

  9. You’re right meh, the DTES as it stands now really ought to be preserved…A truly wonderful part of town…

    I knew as I scrolled down the list of responses that it was only a matter of time before I saw one of these asinine posts such as ‘meh’ treated us to.

  10. Yup. I’d be a lot more sympathetic to the anti-gentrifiwhatsit crew if the folks behind the Waldorf reno were the least bit douchey. This is a good group from why I can see.

  11. So Sean Orr writes about it and it’s “these asshats are screwing up Vancouver” you write about it and it’s “this isn’t gentrification because I like it!”

    Seems to be a bit like trying to have your cake and eat it too, but…meh.

    Hastings street needs some good, street level gentrification. Things like the Woodwards towers aren’t doing anything to improve the neighbourhood, they’re just creating a city in the air where the people who can afford it ignore the problems happening on the street.

  12. Re Corey, Johnathan Ross: Your arguments against the hotel are so superficial and ill informed. It is true that DTES needs a lot of things other than new restaurants and hotels, but it also needs more legitimate music and art venues and this is what they are trying to provide. It is absurd to think it is a bad thing for the community.

  13. I think you have me and meh confused. I am all for the hotel…and other improvements to the wasteland that is the DTES.

  14. Oh come on. I assume you’re talking about yesterday’s Tea and Two Slices when I remarked that the vacuous MTV reality show The Youth Electric captured the essence of a very real segment of the population. It is frightening the level of pretension that the characters in the show, and indeed all those people like them. You can’t possibly compare the fucking Waldorf Hotel to them, and I dare you to prove to me that there is any gentrification happening at all. Yes, a bold statement from Sean Orr, but there is no gentry anymore, sorry. They’ve all settled in the ubiquitous green glass facades of Coal Harbour/Yaletown. This is simply economic rejuvenation. If you can have a place Acme Cafe exist next door to Model Express, if you can have Bao Bei and Everything Cafe help restore Chinatown, if you can have Salt co-exist with the Stanely/New Fountain; I’m sorry but it’s not gentrification. Indeed to suggest otherwise is to undermine the strength of the DTES community. There is a legacy of hotels, charity, and social services that will not be replaced by shiny new condos. Its not going to happen. It is only through perseverance of the community that even got Woodward’s built in the first place, after speculators repeatedly reneged on their promises. Even Gastown itself is a product of urban renewal in an attempt to stop the real gentrifying forces of Freeway Building. So be careful when using big words you can’t understand.

  15. The DTES itself is an amorphous black hole where we deposit our moral condemnation in order to justify its opposite, wealth. Woodwards isn’t in the DTES either, it is just that the word has become synonymous with poverty. You often here people say that the DTES is creeping towards Strathcona as though a geographic region can somehow migrate. As quickly as one can use “the economy” so too can one use the word gentrification, or indeed the DTES.

  16. > Your arguments against the hotel are so superficial and ill informed.

    I don’t think you read my comment..I didn’t argue against the hotel at all.

    > Indeed to suggest otherwise is to undermine the strength of the
    > DTES community

    The issue of the DTES “community” always comes up. It always makes me chuckle.

    That’s the same community that dropped parking meters onto the room of the Pantages Theatre from the neighbouring roof so frequently that they destroyed the Pantages.

    That’s the same community where I saw four guy pulling a woman who had been stripped down to her underwear around on the sidewalk on West Hastings a couple of weeks ago.

    Calling the DTES a “community” is a journalistic convenience and laziness. Communities of people aren’t defined by geographic regions and yes there are cohesive groups of people who form legitimate communities in the area.

    The problem is that no matter how hard some of these groups try, one of those communities just doesn’t care…and the degree to which they don’t care is so great that they’re willing to destroy an entire neighbourhood in the process.

    So, Mr & Mrs. Waldorf who doesn’t read what people write before criticizing it: yes, the Downtown East Side could use a bit of good street level gentrification. I just hope that while you’re there you don’t create your own little insular world and ignore the street.

  17. > onto the room

    That should say “roof” not “room.” Apologies.

  18. As for this:
    > I dare you to prove to me that there is any gentrification happening at all.
    > Yes, a bold statement from Sean Orr, but there is no gentry anymore, sorry.

    it’s not a bold statement at all, it’s fairly typical Sean Orr putting forth a comment that’s so clearly false as a statement of fact in order to be provocative. It’s not that interesting, and it’s pretty disingenuous.

    First you need to define what type of proof you want. There are too many articles from reputable journalistic publications too count. Some are old, some are not.
    You can use a search engine as well as I can. Well…probably not, but you can certainly use one.

    Urban gentrification is typically used to refer to the impact of relatively (and, arguably, significantly) wealthier people moving into a poorer neighbourhood and creating socio-economic change. There is no serious way to argue that this hasn’t been happening on the Downtown East Side: the Acme Cafe wouldn’t exist if it hadn’t, because the last time I checked there weren’t a lot of street living crack addicts dining there.

    To argue that there isn’t a significant difference in wealth between the Fred Lee’s of the world living in the Woodwards Tower and the people living on the street is to ignore reality.

  19. around the downtown east side, somebody has been spray painting ‘i love you all’ in charmingly clumsy bubble letters

    in nearby mount pleasant, someone else is stenciling ‘gentrifier’ in a lowercase serif font

    that kinda says it all, amirite?

  20. Would someone please ask this clever bunch to take consider Fraser for their next project? we’re in a cultural wasteland over there.

  21. I really hope they don’t mess this up. It would be a huge loss for them to destroy the lounges and remove the Leeteg paintings.

  22. To the assertion that the DTES is somehow unable to “migrate”, it bears clarification that the moniker “DTES” is a recent construct, a name coined by political interests in the 1970’s to describe the area around Main and Hastings.

    Today, DTES creep is real: from those early loose geographic boundaries – in the last few years, the City of Vancouver has quietly designated Strathcona, Chinatown, Victory Square, Gastown and Thornton Park as part of the DTES.

    That said, this new Waldorf development is not in the DTES (yet) – and certainly sounds like a great addition to an otherwise tired strip of Hastings. Not sure how that location will fare as a boutique hotel, though.

    Any word on whether they intend to keep and (hopefully revamp) the cold beer and wine store?

  23. I heard they are gonna make the tiki lounge into another beer and wine store and get rid of all the bamboo

  24. I heard they were going to chloroform some giraffes in the parking lot and then stuff them with things people can’t afford.

  25. The Drake in Toronto was fun. I’m glad cool things are happening, but soon I won’t be able to afford to live here with the rate of change.

    Seems like being a real artist living in a real neighbourhood, means eventually those looking to experience this vicariously will try to buy into it and price you right out of your home.

    Hopefully the “yuppies” won’t be able to stand the all night sirens at the docks!

    Looking forward to the housing bubble bursting.

  26. Well, if we want to know what we’ll be getting, let’s take a look at this blurb on residentadvisor.net for this as-yet unopened venue:

    “Infamously known for its: celebrities, hot music, incredibly designed themed rooms, and fashionable clientele. Two main rooms and an exclusive VIP lounge designed in a Polynesian motif, provide an environment truly exclusive in the Lower Mainland. Easy access for drinks, as well as plenty of room to dance, sit, and enjoy yourself. Simply described as, unique without being gimmicky, and elegant without being pretentious.”

    tl;dr: LA in-crowd douchebaggery on scenic East Hastings. Oooh, are those goosebumps?

  27. Oh, even better, from clubvibes.com:

    “The best sexy house played by the top Vancouver DJ’s in one room, all the latest chart toppers in the second room. Minimum age 21+ strictly enforced. Dress code as always is dress to impress! You’re not getting in unless you look like you should.”


  28. Hrm, that last comment appeared to hit the bin…allow me to try again: look, even better, from clubvibes.com:

    “The best sexy house played by the top Vancouver DJ’s in one room, all the latest chart toppers in the second room. Minimum age 21+ strictly enforced. Dress code as always is dress to impress! You’re not getting in unless you look like you should.”


  29. All the negativity isn’t going to change the fact that this is an exciting project.

    Too bad the empty restaurants and barely used hotel can’t sit and remain unused right. It’s too bad the strong, tight knit community at Clark and Hastings has to endure the upgrade… and i mean the seagulls because that’s the only groups that commonly hang out on Hastings and Clark. Oh and the used car dealership – this is an industrial type area. God forbid the people of north commercial have an option in walking distance that stays open past 11. I mean, i love the restaurants on commercial and frequent many of them, but it’s always nice to have more options and not have to walk the same beat every time i want food that’s close to home. I’m sure the people who work in the area (self included… next door to the Waldorf) are going to be super disappointed that we will have more lunch options than the little hole in the wall diner that has an all deep fried line up and chicken that comes from who knows where.

    Not everything is perfect and yes, i’m sure there will be negatives involved, but you can’t argue that this is going to be better than what the Waldorf sitting empty until its so decrepit that it just needs to be knocked down.

  30. Regarding the multi- message rant of Erling Biggs:
    the promotional material cited (clubvibes, etc) refers to events at the former, pre-transformation Waldorf Hotel. Sorry Erling, you missed out on your chance to “dress to impress” while taking in all that celebrity infamy.
    i guess the LA in-croud douchbaggery has come and gone on east hastings.

  31. Hey Erling Biggs,

    you are not getting in dressed like that. Dressed like that the only sexy house you are going to hear is in your very own unsexy house. So come down and line up but it is very very unlikely.

    Maybe if you splurge on some Ed Hardy.

  32. Jesus H. Christmas; drink there or stay at home and piss and moan about it over your well-tended beard. The point is, some folks actually DID something momentous without big offshore dosh. That doesn’t happen here very often. People are far too busy beard tending.

  33. Easy to spot post-modern anomie when whining about ‘gentrification.’ It’s simply a form of renewal. It’s how a city regenerates. What’s the alternative? Delapidation. Decay. Take your pick.

    And, these same people bark for new, heavily subsidized housing in redevelopment projects in neighborhoods of all incomes, but when it comes to DTES, the lauded values of ‘income diversity’ comes to a bitter, vitriolic end when somebody starts earning more than $75k/annum.

    inclusiveness and

  34. Wow..I just have to comment on this posting heap of rediculous unssubstantiated and vitrolic BS..did any of you go to the Opening of the Waldorf?…do you actually care to know the background of the principals involved?..I for one hope that the amazing vision of creating a new venue for LIVE MUSIC & PERFORMANCE of all flavors and having CULINARY OPTIONS that did not require a franchise agreement is GOOD FOR VANCOUVER!
    As for the gentrification of EAST VAN…get over it! In every vibrant culture there is the full spectrum of life from the gutters to the penthouses..and life is not always fair. It is my observation that so many of the social activists and anti-poverty advocates have lost sight of who actually pays for the “Social Safety Net”, its business owners – taxpayers in general- who’s hard work, leadership and committment to their personal visions that create the jobs and provide the cultural and social dynamics of a city.
    I am tired of people slamming Vancouver..we live in one of the most amazing cities on the planet…if you really don’t like the way things are going there is always the option to leave :-).

  35. If anybody REALLY wants to *understand* the notion of gentrification and whether or not it is happening in this place or that – they must read about it. And not rely on common definitions put forth by our popular culture, or by the dominant ideas/myths of the day.
    I highly recommend this book, edited by UBC human geographer Elvin Wyly:

    If you are legitimately interested – read up. In order to be careful not use “use big words that you can’t understand” such as Sean Orr blithely suggests – READ UP.

    Also – props to Jonathan Ross for your arguments, wish I was around when this was going on to back you up.

  36. …honestly, i’m tired of hearing of all these restaurants being opened by these “celebrity” restauranteurs. that’s pretty gentrifying if you ask me.
    it’d be nice to hear of some working class dreamers that put up independent spots… if there are any.
    like the housing market in this expensive city, the commercial sector is just comprised of rich investors, who probably made their first fist of dollars on the backs of those looking for a fix on the DTES.
    scout, stop feeding these hollow hipsters their need for new information to name drop and use at the next awkward house party.
    the only thing this scene is good for is creating a “scene” where former jocks and forever nerds can coexist. all bearded and tattooed.

  37. “it’d be nice to hear of some working class dreamers that put up independent spots… if there are any”

    The Irish Heather
    Salt Tasting Room
    Bao Bei
    Cork & Fin
    The Diamond
    La Buca
    Meat & Bread
    The Cascade Room
    The Alibi Room
    Abigail’s Party
    Bin 941/942
    Memphis Blues
    Mis Trucos
    La Quercia


    In other words, the majority of the most critically-acclaimed restaurants in the city.

  38. “honestly, i’m tired of hearing of all these restaurants being opened by these “celebrity” restauranteurs.”

    Did something change? I thought Ned Bell was there.

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