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
- Vancouver issues 120-day protection order for Waldorf Hotel
- Union president hopes Waldorf Productions can reach a deal with owner
- Waldorf Hotel operator seeks meeting with purchaser as city evaluates heritage value
- Waldorf Hotel owner and leaseholder differ over recent history of site
- Cory Monteith of Glee urges followers to sign Waldorf petition
- Don't blame Waldorf Hotel's owner for the closure of its tenants' venue
- Waldorf makes international music news
- Fearless lunacy characterized the Waldorf
- Waldorf Hotel operator pulls plug; owner's lawyer says it will be business as usual