Waldorf Hotel operator pulls plug; owner's lawyer says it will be business as usual

Waldorf Productions will cease operations at the Waldorf Hotel on January 20 after a lengthy dispute over rent with its landlord, Marko Puharich.

The production company opened its cultural hub in the 63-year-old East Hastings Street hotel on October 31, 2010, to rave reviews from patrons and the media. It includes a restaurant, a tiki bar, hotel rooms, a recording studio, and an art gallery.

Entertainment director Thomas Anselmi told the Straight by phone that his company ran into financial trouble during the first year of a 15-year lease, which was expected in a business of this type. He said Puharich, who represents Waldorf Hotel Ltd., was initially quite accommodating and supportive, but that changed when the operators asked for rent forgiveness.

“At that point, he started looking to sell it,” Anselmi alleged.

He claimed that Waldorf Productions’ failure to pay full rent opened the door for the landlord to switch to a short-term lease at a significantly higher cost.

Waldorf Hotel lawyer Gavin Crickmore told the Straight by phone that he “can’t accept the veracity” of this comment, characterizing it as a “subjective statement”.

“They were paying a base rent for the hotel as of the new lease,” he said. “They made each of those rent payments.”

Crickmore, who was on a conference call with Puharich, emphasized that the hotel would continue operations. He claimed that the operator’s lease expired on January 7.

“We haven’t even had confirmation from them that they’re leaving,” Crickmore stated. “If it is correct that [Waldorf] Productions is planning to cease operations on the 19th, patrons of the hotel can expect it to be business as usual on the 20th. The business of the hotel, obviously, is going to stay open.”

Puharich said that Waldorf Hotel Ltd. owns two liquor-primary licences, one food-primary liquor licence, and one special-retail-store liquor licence.

Anselmi also claimed that the building has been bought by the Solterra Group of Companies, which will build condos on the site.

In addition, Anselmi said that ownership of the liquor licences was transferred from the Puharich family to the new owner.

Crickmore said that he is “unable to confirm any comments” made by Anselmi regarding a sale or potential sale of the property. Solterra’s Mike Bosa did not return a call by deadline.

Anselmi said that the decision to leave means his company will lose deposits for entertainment that has been booked until April.

“We’re hoping the city will step up because we know that…there is a lot of space that the city is allocating right now to artists and artist-run spaces.…We have been running this place as if it was a public institution. And no one can deny that.”

Comments (42) Add New Comment
Nelson100
Let’s take stock of how much of Vancouver’s character and heritage we’ve lost so far under Vision’s development frenzy. The Ridge Theater. The Park Theatre. Maxine’s. Pantages Theater. La Bodega. The Yale. Il Giardino. Kettle of Fish. And now the Waldorf Hotel. Half the things I used to love about Vancouver have fallen to the wrecking ball. How much destruction in the name of developer profit (and trust me that’s all this is about) do we want to see before we recognize that we need a new city council?
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Gene Logan
Hey, now the jokes on us.
What's the difference between Vancouver and yoghurt?

Years ago the entrance to Stanley Park was slated to become a 4 Seasons hotel. People fought back and stopped it. Time to Occupy Waldorf!
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@Nelson
Did Vision order the people of Vancouver to stay away from the Waldorf's programming to the extent where they were asking for loan forgiveness? You'll excuse me if I don't share the conspiracy theory here
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Charlie Jack
Write the developer at its website, http://www.solterradevelopment.ca/
and tell them that it's in their interest to save the hotel, and the operation that gives the neighbourhood its cachet. The site is big enough for condos and the Waldorf. Why would they want to wreck that?
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Barney Fife
This is what you get for "backing the bid".
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Vantheman
A predictable development from an ever more predictable city.

I'd be interested to hear what the straight editorial has to say about this.
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James M.
I loved the Waldorf and the idea of what they were doing, and I am very sad to see it go.

However, everyone is quick to demonize the landlord who wasn't getting the rent that was agreed upon. His bank would not give him a break on his mortgage, and the city wouldn't give him a break on property taxes, so how is he to survive?

The Black and Yellow Gallery wasn't even paying rent, and now their furious?! That's like you selling your house because you can't afford your mortgage and your buddy who's been couch surfing with you for the last year getting mad at you saying it's your fault he has to find a new place to live.

Unfortunately, this project grew in an unsustainable way for the owners which is sad for all. I would be interested to know how much of a break the landlord actually gave them on the rent and how lenient he was with them.

Rather than continuing to blame Vancouver or the landlord for this maybe we should look deeper into why so many arts organizations pop up and fold so quickly - perhaps we need better business mentors for those in the arts who are trying to develop this great city!
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Dan Wilman
Funny... you hipsters took it away from the Longshormen and working people that frequented the pub for years,made it unwelcoming to them (on purpose,perhaps?)and turned it into a so called cultural hub that sold 8 dollar bowls of cereal and 15 dollar share plates...And now,the next crew in the picking order has taken it from you.
Sucks,don't it?
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Rob Roy
No one is 'entitled' to free rent, free space, or a free venue within private property. That privilege has to be earned.

The Waldorf is private property. If the owners and the venue operators can't make a deal to mutual benefit, that's how it goes.

The answer lies in much higher use of land ALREADY owned by the government. There is ample space in ample buildings that now sit idle or grossly underused.

Consider the old Salvation Army / Buddhist Temple at Hastings and Gore, built in 1947. It is owned by Coastal Health. They use its 22,000 sq ft to store used filing cabinets and old dental chairs. It has a full kitchen, a 600-seat auditorium, two gymnasia, a dozen office and meeting spaces, and great public transit.

The arts uses to which it could be put are stupendous.

It's one of a dozen such properties. Those who complain about the Waldorf (also built in 1947) need to get their act together, organize an artists co-op, and acquire it.

The DTES is coming back from its long oblivion, artists already roam those streets like pigeons, and the Temple would be a great place to make and see and experience art of every sort.

Those complaining about the Waldorf need to get organized and acquire the Temple -- and a dozen other sites like it.

"Don't mourn. Organize."
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RUK
That inspired me Rob!
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Staples
"...patrons of the hotel can expect it to be business as usual on the 20th..."

This off hand remark comment shows the lack of depth of understanding what makes a venue or a city's culture.

The energy and commitment to taking risks that Ernesto Gomez and Tom Anselmi put into the building doesn't exist without them.
The bamboo walls and tiki lights were just decoration.

Give me another example of anyone will to put magicians, hip hop groups, art installations, live figure skating and good affordable food under one roof. Then ask them to do it all on one night. And have a line up out the door. It's just unheard of anywhere else in Canada.

It's the kind of thing promoters in the city and "top venues" don't have the guts or imagination to conceive let alone pull off. And that could have just been another Saturday night.

Look forward to TikiRoxy in September. But I doubt i'll see you there.

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mrrafs
Do not ask what this city can do for you. Ask what you can do for this city. A huge thanks to the Waldorf crew and building. Long Live the new King!
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Friend of Vancouver
How will it be 'business as usual' with the people running the place gone? What kind of Orwellian media spin is this?
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Sad Truth
Businesses have to pay rent.

The fact that the Waldorf was a good veunue and/or a 'cultural oasis' is of little matter it the place couldn't make the money it really needed to survive.

I fully admit that I don't know the ins and outs of this story, but if the operators couldn't make it go I wonder why the owner of the building is expected not to collect the agreed to rent/operate a charity?
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Jad
What a sad sad place! As usual, Vancouver will yawn, turn over, get screwed by developers, stare at more empty glass towers, and go back to drinking shitbuck's coffee. A city beyond redemption.
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Darian Geffen
Gomez and Anselmi are the ones who screwed the local arts community by failing to come up with a viable business plan. Why would any landlord allow tenants to not pay their rent? And now, it makes all art centered venue projects look bad. They should be ashamed of themselves, and have set the artist community in Vancouver back 100 years.
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Mike
Jesus, can people stop using the term "hipster" when referring to the Waldorf? These people are not "hipsters." They're too old, too poor, and lack rich mommies and daddies who can bail them out and pay their Coachella credit card bills.
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What Kind Of Vancouver Do You Want To See?
Its a loss for the city. Rent is not the issue, they were not in arrears. The business was profitable - it was destroyed because the owner sold the property to developers.
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mrrafs
at last the lawyers come out... so it appears that the owner allowed the tenants a rent holiday, only to then turn round and then say that their 15year lease was no longer legal because they had broken their contract.. and then he sells to a condo developer after wProductions invest their live savings into restoring the building .... what other capital interests does this tosser have? shouldn't other people be warned about him!!
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mrrafs
in answer to Darian Geffen and "Why would any landlord allow tenants to not pay their rent?" They would offer a 'rent holiday' so they can then use lawyers to break the 15 year contract, sell up and screwp up their tenants investments... wake up...
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