Don't blame Waldorf Hotel's owner for the closure of its tenants' venue

"The mean condo developers have brutally destroyed the Waldorf, WAHH!"

No.

Stop.

Take a deep breath. Now another. Find some inner calm and let's talk about the demise of Waldorf Productions like grown-ups.

Look, I'm not here to mount a white-knighted defence of gentrification and condo developments; hell, I'm drowning in debt and harbour no delusions of ever owning property.

But let's stop ignoring the fact that a venue is a business.

No one is entitled to a venue. Businesses are under no obligation to provide people with free space.

Fact: Waldorf Productions couldn't pay its rent for a while. They asked their landlord if it would be okay if they could temporarily avoid paying rent.

Fact: When I don't pay my rent, I get evicted.

So why is this scenario any different?

Real estate is expensive, but people bemoaning the lack of venues and dynamic arts spaces in Vancouver need to start pooling their money to become owners instead of tenants.

When promoters don't have permanent spaces, they're at the mercy and whim of landlords who, at the end of the day, are there to make money. They want their fucking rent.

Why did Waldorf Productions sign a 15-year lease for space in a building surrounded by development properties? That whole stretch of East Hastings Street is being prepped by developers for condos. Was there really a reasonable expectation that a former motel lodge on a dirty stretch of Hastings would still be there in 15 years?

Richard's on Richards met with a similar fate but, let's be honest: the building was a falling down wreck with mysterious leaks coming through the bathrooms' ceilings. Am I glad the venue was replaced by condo towers? Not particularly. Do I harbour an unyielding belief that the end of Richard's on Richards was an unsurvivable tragedy? Not in the slightest.

If you build it, they will come. The clever minds at Waldorf Productions proved that handily. Yes, it's sad that their business failed. But the fiscal reasons their business failed are just as important as the always-changing nature of a major metropolitan city.

People are calling the Waldorf the lifeblood of Vancouver, but that's a tad melodramatic. How many venues have closed in this city over the years? How many will open in the future? Do we cling so desperately to closing venues because they are truly amazing places or out of nostalgia, a desperate longing for a past that is not longer here?

Culture is not static; it is a continually evolving entity. Some of the most challenging, thoughtful, creative, and meaningful art comes in the face of adversity, in the wake of destruction and change. Nothing is permanent; three years ago, the Waldorf as a reputable venue didn't even exist. And now people are wringing their hands as if the big bad wolf has come in, blown houses down, and eaten their pets.

The closures of the W2 Media Café and the Waldorf clearly show that there is a serious disconnect between culture and business in Vancouver. I see a lot of people with great ideas overextending themselves and their resources—and inevitably failing in their pursuits. It's shitty, but the fact of the matter is that you can't get something for nothing.

I'm seeing a lot of people desperate to create community and putting in untold hours into fostering that. So why are these endeavours failing? You can't keep falling back and blaming the corporate boogeymen or ineffectual politicians or the economy. Eventually you have to take a serious look at what you are doing—or not doing.

People make community, not production companies. Over 4,500 people have signed a petition asking the city not to rezone the Waldorf property, great. Now what are those thousands actually going to do?

This isn't simply a battle between developers and the poor, helpless arts community. This is a struggle to marry creativity with the business sense to capitalize upon and effectively market those ideas. This is a gulf between artists’ good intentions and their ability to flourish in a money-driven culture.

So the Waldorf closed. What I want to hear is: what is the community going to do next? 

More on the Waldorf

Comments (75) Add New Comment
Timothy Snape
Miranda, it's sad that people like you are given a voice in any type of publication, let alone a magazine so vested with the cultural interests of an entire city. Your level of cynicism and lack of understanding is so typical of a generation infatuated with irony and so lacking in passion. The managers of the Waldorf attempted to create something unique to the city of Vancouver and indeed to North America, and they would have succeeded if not for the underhanded actions of a conglomerate of faceless dealers.

There are two factors that your article fails to take into consideration. Firstly, the management of a business of this size and nature, whilst in its infancy, is never going to be anything but a bumpy ride. Regardless of whether or not rent was paid on time, the actions of the owner were deliberately misleading for the purpose of gross commercial gain. It is more than common for any type of long-term investment to suffer losses in the name of building a profitable brand and a solid customer base. This situation is no different. To compare it to paying the rent on your house is not only misleading but completely irresponsible, and highlights the fact that people who no nothing about operating a business shouldn't write about it. Secondly, to write of the positive cultural externalities generated by the Waldorf Hotel as worthless and replaceable shows a complete lack of respect for an entire industry, and a complete lack of understanding of the inherent irony in this closure. Do you think that the area would be as valuable as it is without the geographical branding that comes from such a vibrant and cosmopolitan venue as the Waldorf. It's a developers dream. The cultural value of the Waldorf may not have a dollar value on it, but you'd have to be blind not to see that it is capitalised on by developers in the same way as free wi-fi or a new bus line. You're completely ignoring this and basically rendering a businesses value as the sum of its physical capital. You're ignoring the concept of brand value completely. When it comes down to it Miranda, you're just being deliberately controversial and showing a complete lack of respect and a fundamental lack of understanding. It's ok to be a fucking idiot, but you should really keep your idiocy to yourself, because it's not helping anyone.

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Art C Fartsy
By the time the condo bubble bursts, many of these developments will have devoid Vancouver of any cultural landscape. Culture is at the epicenter of the new economy and because we traded our culture for these cookie cutter castles, Vancouver will be at an economic disadvantage.

Mark my words, interest rates can't be low forever and Chinese investments can't prop everything up indefinitely. Lacking high wage industries, to the point where living in New York is more affordable, means that when the castles come crumbling down, most people here won't be capable of putting it back together. Investments will be crushed, retirements will be lost, prices will finally fall. Only then will culture return be welcomed back - do we really have to get sick before getting better?

What a vicious circle.
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Jovian
Editorial opinions are fine, but this is an opinion based on fiction. Even the owner's lawyer has stated the production group fulfilled their obligations. I'd say you should do your research but I have a feeling you don't mind your soapbox being composed of lies. Since when did the Straight employ trolls? Go back to your cave.
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I can't count
ONE WORD: OUT OF TOUCH
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Reality Check
We can, and should, bemoan the fact that Vancouver has, for decades, destroyed its unique, character, structures and entities.

Specifically when it comes to the closing of the Waldorf as it's been operating since 2010, though, it is unrealistic to not examine the role of the operators, and the patrons, in the demise.

From what's been reported, it seems that the inability of the operators to keep up with rent requirements to which they'd committed themselves, is what caused them to lose their hold on the space ie. the 15-year lease.

Without knowing the terms of the original lease, and monthly rents etc., we can't tell why the business created was not viable. Was it not supported enough by the community? Were expenses not kept in line? etc. etc.

The bottom-line, though, is that the operators could not make a go of things, and so, their position weakened - and, the result is what's now being reported.
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Fred
> "the fact of the matter is that you can't get something for nothing."

Ever heard of business subsidies? Governments give these to businesses with our tax dollars. The new owners are probably subsidized in some way. I doubt the Waldorf operators would have problems with lease payments if they had a subsidized line of credit. They either lack business savvy or political capital.
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Bruce
Ok Kim, you just made a bold statement! So what ARE the facts in your view?
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Kyle
Others may have said this (I haven't read the comments), but I'd simply state the following:
(1) I don't disagree that you've got to consider the business model in the equation, but,
(2) the fact that their business model failed was likely because the costs of doing this type of business is too high for a community that is drowning in debt and not going out to these types of venues. And so,
(3) When you ask what the community is going to do about it (rather than simply signing a petition and never supporting the businesses), they likely can't in one of the world's least affordable cities. So what is to become?

This isn't a Waldorf discussion, it's a degradation of the communities and culture within the city.
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jo
if you think that place was rundown, you have no soul and deserve to be locked up in a white walled condo for the rest of your life. yes i'm serious.... white walls are hell on earth.
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Ryan McCormick
Physical exercise is important for the well-being of people of all ages, and that's why the government subsidizes hundreds of basketball courts, skate parks, ice rinks, gyms, tennis courts and parks in our city. It's been well documented that music and art are also very important for the mental health, well-being, and personal and social development of people of all ages. As this article points out, art spaces don't always succeed as businesses. And that's exactly why we ARE in fact "entitled to a venue." It's not business; it's our GOVERNMENT that should be obligated "to provide people with free space."
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Darren Gay
Hey - while all you crybabies are wondering where to go next to buy overpriced drinks and watch overweight women embarrass themselves, why not rent a movie?
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Nick
Best read this paper has had in a while!
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Unimpressed
"I'm seeing a lot of people desperate to create community and putting in untold hours into fostering that. So why are these endeavours failing? You can't keep falling back and blaming the corporate boogeymen or ineffectual politicians or the economy. "

Actually, you can. I am one of many in this city who organizes venues for people to enjoy art and culture - in our case, to play music. Every reasonable venue we find is discovered, harassed, and eventually shut down by Vancouver's finest. We aren't a violent crowd, nor are we particularly substance-abusing. We get liquor licenses. We operate under our fire restrictions. We hire the correct number of security.

But if you operate, even legally, in a neighbourhood which is being developed - which is everywhere - you will be persecuted until you are shut down or you shut yourself down.
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Elk Paauw
The source that Ms. Nelson "used" to write this (or shall I say, simply referred to in passing) actually disproves her main argument: the operators of the Waldorf NEVER MISSED PAYING THEIR RENT. Also, I hope you realize that the iconic Tiki Bar is literally irreplaceable. And although the exterior may appear to be a "dump" to some, it is undeniably the nicest-looking building on E Hastings. And also THE MOST FUN. Keep in mind, you can't get a quality Dark 'n' Stormy made with house-made ginger beer while listening to world-class musicians and socializing with your East Van party peers in a condo development.
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some vancouver dude
is this guy suggesting that culture needs to redefine itself to fit the business model ? that's more insane than the business model itself!
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Staples
Your rent and a long term corporate lease are two different things.

When you are paying tens of thousands of dollars monthly and put (literally) hundreds of thousands of dollars into renovations, staffing and running at a loss while generating interest in your project and their property, owners often negotiate rent. Business negotiate rent all the time. So do home owners.

Since you probably have never had any money and have never tried to run a business you wouldn't get it. Grown up.

The Waldorf chose a location surrounded by development projects because they wanted to serve the people that would live in those projects. That's why London Drugs or IGA takes the space under most condo's. It's called a business plan.

I look forward to your next project. Not your next article. Your next project, venue or cultural place that contributes to the city.

Ending by asking the community what it's going to do next further shows you are the type to wait for others to lead and comment on it after the fact. Your lack of empathy for others who are doing the work confirms your lack of participation.
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Lame
Wow, Miranda you can do better than this! A few valid points overshadowed by hyperbole and cynicism.

If anyone wants to read whats REALLY going on I recommend this article:

The story behind The Waldorf’s displacement from the Hastings Corridor
http://themainlander.com/2013/01/10/the-story-behind-the-waldorfs-displa...
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pietro
"Fact": I don't like you equating "venue" with "business". The Waldorf was a business, and the owner to whom they paid rent was a business, but culture is more than just business, and to claim that culture "should" ultimately bow down to business is to treat Capitalism as a natural, a given. Property and rental payment are constructed rights--DESIGNED even. For Miranda Nelson to say we should stop complaining is close to asking us to quit trying to change the current system.

"Fact": I am not as willing as Miranda Nelson is to role over and let rent over-determine what I want this city to become.
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Jason Sullivan
Simple thesis: don't blame the landlord for this venue closing. And I don't, however, I believe there is a stronger & more honest defense for said landlord.

The author of this article, in a pejorative-free sense, chose to avoid this avenue of defense, and as it appears, uses a handful of shifting rationales to stoke the fires of discontent...or bait commentators, perhaps.

Myself included, to be fair.

I know little to nothing of the specifics to this transaction, and I have neither been to the Waldorf nor am troubled by the impending closure. I am happy to patronize all other branches of Nuba, for example.

That said, I hope that this article was written, edited, and published as a means to instigating a discussion about the intersection of business vs. culture here in Terminal City. It is naive to imply or assume that they exist outside of or irrespective of each other and I agree with Nelson on calling out and providing a, shall we say rough, context within which this enterprise existed.

Anyone believing that culture stood a chance, should it cross swords with so-called business interests, well, good luck with both your beans and the climbing of your beanstalk.

As for the aforementioned landlord, the simplest defense for him is this - as recently demonstrated to Pro Hockey fans - money is a convenient way to keep score but in the end, every negotiation is about the demonstration of power. In this case, that demonstration involves a short-term windfall at the cost of the shuttering of an inflated landmark because a generation that suckled on email, then facebook, then twitter, then instagram, etc. fell prey to successful marketing & advertising.

Take a deep breath, listen to a David Harvey lecture, be brave enough to learn some critical thinking & let us sit upon this meadow and tell sad tales of the death of kings, so to speak.

J
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Friend of Vancouver
This article spreads disinformation!
The business at the Waldorf did not 'fail', it was destroyed because the building's owner sold it to developers who said the leasees had to be out in September 2013. The mention of rent is a non-issue - the leasees asked for a temporary break on rent last year & the landlord agreed in exhange for the signing of a shorter lease than the original 15 years (likely with the idea of a sale in mind) - the leasees had paid their rent up to date under the new agreement. This was all widely reported in the media, also the fact the leasees were not in arrears with rent.
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