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
out at night
@ James2
Let's have that again cuz it's really good stuff:

"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." (sic)

See, that's all any of us need to know about the current state of the culture: itty-bitty concerns posing as real topics. Trend-hoppers living through their online statuses. Good for you James2, you nailed it.

As for off-shore ownership of Vancouver properties, I'm no xenophobe but this IS getting to be difficult to just accept. Without resorting to mob/racist defaults I think it's past time to actually do something about it. Absentee landlords couldn't care less about the cultural landscape here and yet their pattern of buying up, locking up and then misusing properties is a culture killer.

12
4
Rating: +8
Boon
Good comment, Out at Night. Im not sure why the concern of "those hipsters" for trying to preserve some history and culture in the city is so concerning for "those mainstreamers" when it benefits them too.

As for the off-shore ownership, I agree. Though there is some xenophobic element (from others) to the issue, I would have to say its secondary to the actual issue itself and that at the heart, its still about trying to preserve what little history/culture this city has and at this rate of development, perhaps some have not noticed but it's getting worse. Also concern about the exploding cost of living here is a pretty color blind one.

The other thing about the Waldorf is that it is a singularly unique venue and when it was run by this current crew of operators it made for something even more rare in the city. The physical venue itself opens up for versatile programming options and if you look at the list of festivals/organizations that have had events there (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 ) as well as things like the Food Cart Festival (which is a good example of something that benefits the whole city in pushing food cart culture or the standard of it in the city), not sure why "the mainstreamers" would be so smug about the concern about "those hipsters" to try and save a place like the Waldorf.

In addition, they had some of the best music bookings in the city as well ranging from house/electronic to indie bands. Might not be "the mainstreamers" cup of tea but there is enough venues for mainstream/top 40 music in town, it still benefits the entire city for there to be some place for "those hipsters" to do their thing - who else is going to push the arts in the city that you will end of following to some degree a while later?
8
4
Rating: +4
peter
sorry to see the waldorf go but i agree with the article. also, having lived in several cities, this is a global problem. good arts venues always struggle and eventually close. that's just how it is. the good news is there is always an art scene if you are willing to look for it. this is a reminder to get out there and support the arts.
6
2
Rating: +4
A. Ancheta // Portland, OR
In YVR much like PDX, people with great ideas overextend themselves because they HAVE TO in order to try to make it work. I'm sure the over regulation of permits, fees, unforeseen hoops + insane taxes turns a great idea like the Waldorf into something that struggles to stay alive. Without the backing of the city to carve out special areas or permits for artists in pockets of the city, those affordable spaces are going to be located further and further away from areas that people actually give a shit about.

Like it or not, the community needs to work with the city council to demonstrate the value of such spaces in the city proper with assistance such as grants, tax abatements, public art, -whatever, so they are as much a stakeholder as the creative class themselves. Only in this manner will the arts /culture of Vancouver survive while filling the unique voids that are currently missing without over extending their ideas .
10
1
Rating: +9
Save Vancouver
When will voters realize that Vision Vancouver has presided over one of the largest losses of cultural and heritage spaces in decades: The Pantages, The Ridge, The Playhouse, The Waldorf the list goes on and on.

The fact Robertson was scared into action shows he is terrified that young voters will rediscover COPE and turf the pro-developer Vision Vancouver.
3
2
Rating: +1
out at night
@Save Vancouver

Uh, minor point, but the Playhouse is still up and running. It is true that the Playhouse Theatre Company, the venue's primary resident performing arts organization, has folded. The PHTC went under for any number of reasons and that's been well debated. The space is viable, an excellent venue and I believe you will start seeing plenty of activity there starting in the fall of 2013 as several organizations who've been itching to get in there will now have a chance to use the space.

I really liked what the tenants were doing at the Waldorf, but we do live and die by the gate, the bottom line, and like the PHTC, maybe it was just their time.
7
1
Rating: +6
Mister Smith
Considering all the money our country pisses away on our (CRTC approved) 'culture' and 'multiculturalism' how is this Tiki Bar NOT considered a living shrine to the global cross-pollination of music and art?
3
4
Rating: -1
guest
one more person telling me the Waldorf is "a historic landmark" and I'm going to laugh into their face. without apologizing. The Waldorf was build 63 years ago. It's not historic. It's recent. My parents are older and I don't call them historic.
Thanks for the mature comment here, I've been told to be a bleeding heart hippy but I'm grown up enough to know that I need to pay rent.
7
2
Rating: +5
VVV
"How many venues have closed in this city over the years? How many will open in the future?"

But that's the problem. For every interesting cultural venue that opens, how many close down? Vancouver is losing its special landmarks because they can't afford to pay as much as a giant condo can. Sure, the Waldorf opened in the past few years but how many have closed (including the Waldorf) in that time? Nearly all the one-screen theatres like the Ridge are shutting down to be replaced by condos. I've watched hundreds of films in that art nouveau theatre with great sound and a crying room (!) and now it's getting the axe. There are so many examples like this within the last ten years.

These places used to be able to afford to stay open even with the same amount of customers as they receive now but the city is being turned into one giant condo for the rich.

Do we want to live in that kind of a city?
3
2
Rating: +1
Allan
If all those who signed the pitition attactually went to the Waldof regulary, then they wouldn't be closing. If people don't want to lose these venues then go to them. But your money were your mouth is.

I aslo find it very interesting that the Mayor jumps in to be the savior when the land is owned by someone eles. But when he is the Landlord he lets the ART die. Have we already forgotten the Vancouver Playhouse?
7
4
Rating: +3
Hannah
No matter what has really happened here to merit the loss of this venue the fact remains that this venue would have excited prospective buyers to the condo's that are about to go up on the adjacent and opposite corners. I would think it would be in the best interest of all the developers who are investing in the corners at this intersection to do all that they can to assist the continuation of the life occurring at The Waldorf right now, at least until the condo's are sold and established. Then re-address how to develop The Waldorf's corner.
2
1
Rating: +1
Just wondering ...
... why it took so long to get the leaseholders to produce financial statements. Were these guys just flying by the seat of their pants, budget-wise?
4
1
Rating: +3
mrrafs
i disagree with this article - it is sensationalist, uses no evidence and appeals to the lowest common denominator... waldorf productions had a 15 year lease and then the lawyers 'arrange' for it to be a weekly lease... and then surprise surprise, the property gets sold... this country is becoming more and more like the states every day.. meh..
1
4
Rating: -3
Martin Dunphy
mrrafs

Keep reading...
3
1
Rating: +2
Tee
It is an example of the requirement the cultural community has to begin speaking the language of business. Create coops and acquire property through ownership, generating self-sustaining revenue streams, investing and building a stewardship of wealth for the cultural community.

Work with the city, chamber of commerce to develop business relationships from a cultural perspective. It is possible - but letting go of the Us vs Them mentality is a prerequisite.
1
0
Rating: +1

Pages

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