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

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



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
@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?"

Darren's onto something here; staying home! Why not contribute to Vancouver's rich culture of staying in and quietly minding your own business? Now if you really, really feel the need to go outside and do something else, there are plenty of awesome places like the Roxy, the Cactus Club, or the Granville Pukin' Party Ghetto. Woo! Or save up your outside time for one of those rad government-approved parties like the Festival of Louts, or the Molson Street Party Hockey Riot Tune-Up Fest! Nothing says culture like a government-approved party!

Better yet *insert something here about how we have the ocean and the mountains*.
Rating: +12
Funny how this place turned into such a nostalgic and historical arts hotspot. 3 years ago the majority thought it was a dump.
Rating: +9
Most importantly, where are these guys gonna go drink now?
Rating: +2
business is business.

boo fucking hoo.

who cried when the legendary trade vics got sold and floated away? easily more recognizable as a world class tiki bar, with counterparts in more sunny places.

people complain about overpriced condos in the city. don't blame developers! blame the hordes of asian property buyers who artificially inflate pricing. have large purchasing groups, and make it unaffordable for the average vancouverite to ever own a 600 square foot apartment in mount pleasant.

other countries (look south) have laws against foreign buyers renting out homes/apts/condos for profit.
so again,
don't blame developers, they are a business.
don't blame the waldorf owners, they are a business too.
can you blame the promoters for running a shitty business? a little.

blame the buying power of china and korea for eating up all our real estate, never fixing anything, and then collecting over priced rent.
we gave up on ever owning a new condo when every time we went to purchase there were sleepy, bad-breathed teenagers from hong kong waiting in line over night to buy every single damn condo they could get in a new building, regardless of price or size.

Rating: +7
Lindsay Brown
There are so many inaccuracies in this article, the Straight should never have printed it. They did NOT fall behind in their rent; they paid higher rent to the owner than he had received before they came in; they had just completed their best quarter ever and were becoming profitable. The Georgia Straight, which takes a boatload of money from condo developers in exchange for running full page condo ads, should look to its credibility. Vancouver isn't the second most unaffordable city in the world relative to median income for nothing. Property speculation has priced culture AND other businesses out of the market here, so that nothing is left unless Vision Vancouver, which has significantly worsened the real estate speculation problem, takes some proactive steps to support culture not to mention affordable housing. Where did the author and all these commenters get brainwashed with the idea that art happens as an entrepreurial enterprise and that's the only measure of its success? Did the Koch brothers tell you this? On top of the article's wilful misunderstanding of how culture works, it's sloppy. The Straight needs to run some corrections here.
Rating: -1
Charlie Smith
I'm going to enter into the fray here. Miranda Nelson wrote the following, which seems to have some people thinking she has her facts wrong.

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.

I interviewed Thomas Anselmi, who is the entertainment director for Waldorf Productions. He told me that "we asked him [the landlord] to give us some breathing room by giving us some free rent, you know, and then we said we would negotiate a new situation after. At that point, he started looking to sell it. He used that to break the lease."

Gavin Crickmore, lawyer for the owner, Waldorf Hotel Ltd., told me that Waldorf Productions is paid-up on its rent as of January 7.

Miranda's statement was accurate. If there's anything to quibble with, it's that she didn't add the comment (which is in my article) that Waldorf Productions has paid its rent in full as of January 7.

Charlie Smith
Rating: +13
a word to James, money talks BS walks. You have no money, you cant afford to buy condo's then others will and they will be more important that you.
Rating: -7
Culture is for bacteria.
Rating: -2
Nick V
It's sad when a venue closes, but who the hell puts that kind of money and effort into a space before they get their lease in place.

Pair of Grade A numpties
Rating: +4
hey James

Agreed with much of your statements, except your analysis of local real estate. Foreign ownership is a very small percentage of what drives the local market -- despite the hype that the local real estate cartel want us to believe.

First-time homebuyers buying into a 40yr amortization with 5% down in this ridiculous market is by far the largest percentage of what is has driven us to this insanity.

It's not the sellers who determine the price. It's the BUYERS. Any idiot willing to pay over asking for a box in the sky is more to blame than the seller or developer asking a ridiculous $500K for that piece of crap. or even the banks.

THANK GOD THE HOUSING CRASH IS HAPPENING. One year from now, things will be very different. Two years from now, there will be blood on the streets.

Hey Solterra! Raze the Waldorf and erect another sterile 20-storey eyesore! I DARE YOU. Maybe call the project "Hubris."

Rating: +5
Ali Said
Thanks for some sanity!
Rating: +1
what's with all of the condos in my building being owned my asian property groups? I thought this was a myth perpetrated by the media or something?

seriously, they own 30+ out of 48 units. all off shore landlords.

money talks and BS walks. prob said by another ex-DJ/bartender/shitty school major turned into a real estate agent.

the waldorf may have had some cool djs and parties, but for the msot part, was that same shitty bar none of us wanted to got to even 10 years ago.

go support the guys at calabash. they're doing it right and making it work.

you probably won't though.

you're probably the type of guy who grows a moustache for "movember" and doesn't collect money for a cancer charity. hope yor faceebook pics inspire lots of your former co-workers at earls to leave witty comments.
Rating: -1
Arts funding. it's not just for irish dancers, rita mcneil, and maritime fiddlers. it's also for all the grit and dirt that new cultural material is born from. we need politicians who are willing to take a risk and fund the kind of culture that people are asking for, on their terms. not the kind of shit they think we should like...think inuit poetry about sexual a goddamed disco already! put on a fucking dirty artshow that turns into a rave on goes on for three days. only then will we all be satisfied. thank you.
Rating: +7
As Kim says - this is NOT WHAT HAPPENED at the Waldorf.

This is perhaps the worst, most misguided, and alarmingly shallow analysis of community empowerment I have ever seen come out of the Straight.

Here is what I hear you saying:
Capitalism prevails. If you don't like it, get off your ass and do something about it. But really, the only way forward is to have creativity and culture give in into the neo-liberal agenda.

"People make community, not production companies."
Yes they do. On that I agree.

"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?"
Continue to raise such a stink that the City and community will make it impossible for these ignorant hucksters rob our communities of culture and sell it back to us at a profit.
Rating: -10
zsa zsa Gabor
I like so many others liked the idea of the tiki bar having grown up with Gilligans Island but never quite got there...
Rating: +5
Marc Leblanc
It's all true
Gotta pay your rent
Greed exploiting the history

Times change

We lose buildings

But storing chairs in a former Buddhist temple?
Rating: +1
Col Mustard
Typical Vancouver attitude......entitlement. If the artsy people want it, them make an offer to buy it, otherwise shut the !!!! up. It's called free enterprise.
Rating: +3
Mrs White
Re CoL' Mustard,

You'll get yours in the libray, facist.

signed The Tooting Popular Front

Rating: +1
Keyboard Warrior
Seems like a number of different things are going on in this discussion.

1) The business of art spaces. They add to culture. They add to the spirit of the city. The larger art spaces are often over extended and not supported by the public and they close. People scream and yell, but, how often did the people really support it? I live up the street from the Waldorf. I have been there 4 times since it opened. So, bad on me. But look at the business model of the Waldorf...Hotel, Bar X 2, Food Establishment, Art Space, Liquor store. Hard business to run for any businessman, lots of lines of business and hard to focus on any one thing. Should the city support these spaces with Grants so they can operate and keep their head above water? That seems to be the real question, over the pointing of fingers over our beloved Waldorf that we would drive by and think..what a great place, but, rarely stop in to actually support.

2) The owner decided to sell. They weren't Waldorf productions, they were a family that had owned it for years, when it was in the middle of nowhere and now they saw opportunity. They were good enough to rent it to Waldorf productions and were supportive of it as long as it made sense to them. Then they sold it when developers came knocking. Condo's mean density, density means more people to support more small businesses.

I support more Condo's around this area. I want people to come so the small businesses can survive. I also would of loved to have a space like the Waldorf be a hub to go on a Sunday for a food card festival, or one I could drive by and say..what a great space, gives the area character. I know another will pop up. Or maybe the developers will build something around the Waldorf to keep it alive and have the experience to run a multi-line business that the Waldorf is. Show that you care, and they might. Piss on their lawn and they might not.

Rating: +4
Roget and his book
Well,one thing about this episode/controversy/witch hunt,however you choose to view it,it has certainly given all of the Main Street hipsters a chance to finally use the fancy words they learned whilst earning their Liberal Arts degrees.Oh,and just one more thing...can I have the name of the PR firm the Waldorf Group used to spread the news of their demise?Not sure when the last time I saw such a blanket of propaganda spread so thoroughly.....almost like there was a countdown to go time...
Rating: +6


Add new comment
To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.