Waldorf Hotel to close this month: leaseholders
The Waldorf Hotel, which opened in 1947 in East Vancouver, is being vacated by its current leaseholders on Jan. 20, 2013. (Jen Osborne/JenOsborneStudio.com)
Published Wednesday, January 9, 2013 3:45PM PST
Last Updated Thursday, January 10, 2013 3:49PM PST
An East Vancouver cultural institution is closing its doors in less than two weeks after being sold to a real estate development company, according to the building's current tenants.
The lease-holders of the historic Waldorf Hotel on East Hastings Street announced Wednesday the building will be vacated on Sunday, Jan. 20, after more than 60 years in business.
Partners Thomas Anselmi, Ernesto Gomez, Scott Cohen and Daniel Fazio said they were offered a chance to rent the space on a weekly basis until September, but that the deal would have made operating the venue, with its popular bar and nightclub spaces, impossible.
“We obviously can’t move forward under these conditions as our business requires commitments to artists, organizations and entertainers months in advance,” Anselmi, the Waldorf’s entertainment director, said in a statement.
“This has cost 60 people their jobs. This has destroyed our business.”
The partners say the new owner is the Solterra Group of Companies, a condo developer that specializes in townhomes and high-rise residences.
News of the Waldorf’s closure spread quickly over social media, where many lamented the loss of the beloved neighbourhood arts hub, which sports a tiki bar, dual nightclubs, Nuba restaurant, a recording studio and a gallery space.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson also issued a statment describing the Waldorf as one of the city's "most unique and vibrant cultural spaces."
"The Waldorf closing is a big loss to Vancouver's growing creative community. It's my hope that they'll be able to re-launch and return in some form in the near future," Robertson said.
The mayor also pointed out that the site of the Waldorf is currently zoned for mixed-use commercial purposes, not residential development, and a change in zoning would require neighbourhood consultation and approval by city council.
Anselmi and his partners took over operation of the hotel in 2010 with ambitious plans to transform what was then commonly considered an East Vancouver dive bar into a thriving business. They signed a 15-year lease and funded a costly renovation, and were given breaks on rent from landlord Marko Puharich as they struggled to find their financial footing.
In the years since, the hotel has found a place in a number of major arts and culture festivals, including the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival, the Vancouver International Film Festival and the East Side Culture Crawl, and attracted some of the city’s top performers, including Douglas Coupland, Black Mountain, Japandroids and Grimes.
But last August, the partners said their relationship with Puharich suddenly shifted.
“Phone calls stopped being answered. Emails and texts were unreturned. A smug litigator, rather than the jovial landlord, became the point of contact. The property was on the market and the landlord was using the Waldorf’s growing pains to break the lease,” said a press release announcing the hotel’s closure.
Anselmi said the sale of the hotel to a condo developer is ironic because the renovated Waldorf helped “reinvigorate” the surrounding area, which has seen a small increase in residential development in recent years.
“The Waldorf filled a void. People responded because they needed it. We tried to stand for something authentic and real in a city with thousands of empty condominiums and a community starved for cultural spaces,” Anselmi said.
There have been no announcements yet about a potential farewell event for the hotel.