Frances Bula header image 2

Waldorf operators issue public warning to developers who have purchased hotel site

January 15th, 2013 · 148 Comments

Sorry, I know some of you are sick of this, but I’m fascinated by this train wreck. Here’s the latest.



Categories: Uncategorized

  • babalu1

    @F.H. Leghorn

    Being the Southern gentleman that you are, can I saflee assume, suh, that your favourite music is Countree and Western? As an amatoor composer in that genree mahself, I have composed a few on The Waldorf.
    Such as: “The Old Waldorf Don’t Look The Same, as I walked in from the rain and there to meet me was you and Glissy……….”
    Or, ” As I Walked Down the Street of East Hastings, Walked down East Hastings one day, an Old beer parlour I happened to spy….”
    Or, ” Stand By Your Planner…Sometimes It’s Hard to Be a Planner, Giving all your love to just one plan…

    Ah, suggest, suh, you akwire more culture. Why just last Christmas a took little Chicken Hawk to see Hamlet’s Messiah.

    @Glissy. Cheers to you. But I wasn’t doing Carry Grant in Notorius (sic) – I vas dooink Peter Lore.

  • Sandy Garossino

    Small point of correction. I do not advocate subsidies for the Waldorf.

    Rather, the only lever available here appears to be city’s zoning discretion.

    Solterra’s investment is predicated on an expectation that re-zoning of the property is a mere formality.

    The land is zoned industrial–a zoning classification that on its own needs protection, and anyway (as Trish French points out) the Poultry District is inherently problematic for residential development.

    And as we’ve seen, this parcel has also become a cultural asset of importance to the city. The skeptics on this thread might not be our foremost experts on what constitutes a cultural asset.

    Community supporters of the Waldorf hoped that the City might impress upon the buyers that, absent some kind of terms with Waldorf Productions, there is no compelling public interest in re-zoning the parcel.

    This isn’t just a bargaining ploy, it’s actually true.

    It appears that Solterra decided to push through with its initial plan and not bend to pressure or consider other options that might meet everyone’s objectives without incurring extra cost. There was a win-win here, but Solterra didn’t think so.

    They are entitled to make that call. They have bet that Vancouver’s memory is short.

    Time will tell if they’re right about that.

  • You guys know the ‘pop’ in pop music stands for popular right?

    No fans, not pop.

    I don’t think it’s particular ‘esoteric’ but I do know that it’s a craft, and these claims of half hour pop songs are the outliers of the talented and inspired out in the real world, and simplistic over generalizations here in Fabulastan. The number of songs out there is a strange measure. How many books are there in the world. Think that it’s easy to write a book too?

  • F.H.Leghorn

    Books? I’ve written a few. Just finished editing a 500 pager that will be read by maybe six professors and a dozen grad students, and it’s free. Is that esotric enough for you?
    If you add up all the posts on this list you’d be pushing a couple thousand pages. I’m guessing if you had to pay to post here we’d see a whole lot less opinion. And if you had to pay to read it there would be even fewer patrons than the Waldorf attracted.
    @babalu: Heehee. Where’d I put that banjo?

  • I have no idea what you are jabbering about now. You got busted trying to make a dumb-ass over-generalization. Walk away.

  • IanS

    @Chris Keam #102:

    “You guys know the ‘pop’ in pop music stands for popular right?

    No fans, not pop.”

    Ooo.. a clever definitional argument. Sooo.. pop music which isn’t successful isn’t pop music? Nice. So, I guess we’re really talking about unpop music then?

    “I don’t think it’s particular ‘esoteric’ but I do know that it’s a craft”

    Yes, it is a craft. Just not a particularly difficult one to undertake, in my experience.

    @Sandy Garossino #101:

    “Small point of correction. I do not advocate subsidies for the Waldorf.”

    I thought you were being critical of the landlord for not subsidizing them enough?

    Besides, I don’t think there’s anything necessarily wrong about subsidies. I just think that the cultural gurus who are so expert in identifying “cultural assets” should be the ones doing the subsidizing.

  • @ Waltyss/Mike/Geoff 88.

    Sandy has clarified her position re: subsidies in 101. It appears we agree, the subsidies are not justifiable for the Waldorf based on the information available at this point in the discussion.

    My concern with respect to your comments here and in general are that they are aggressive in style and tone and they do have the effect of “intimidating” and “bullying”. With respect to style and tone, the English language is a rich toll that enables the writer to express him/herself articulately without resorting to the language you employed in 88. Thank you for continuing to validate my ‘belief’ of your motivation.

    Since our discussion is of little relevance to the discussion at hand I will not comment further, however, because I know it’s important to you, you cam have the last word.

  • Sorry, “toll” should read “tool” in 106 and “cam” is “can”.

  • Jaketown

    @ Sandy Garossino #101

    “Solterra’s investment is predicated on an expectation that re-zoning of the property is a mere formality.”

    Assumptions continue to be made about Solterra’s intention for the property without any basis in fact. Solterra has not made a rezoning application and have made no public statements about its intention. As stated elsewhere, the owner’s business interests extend beyond being a developer of condominiums exclusively and may include the Moda Hotel downtown.

    Perhaps Solterra will propose a redevelopment scheme that introduces some form of densification of the site while retaining the best elements of the existing hotel. It has been reported that the Waldorf Creative Team was exploring this notion with third party developers (without the knowledge of the property owner), but they haven’t been vilified for being opportunistic and potentially seeking to redevelop the property while Solterra has. This strikes me as a particularly egregious double standard.

  • Tiktaalik

    @Jaketown That’s a good point to bring up that Solterra is also a hotel operator and most people didn’t know this when they made their initial reactions to the news of the Waldorf closing.

    I think people continue to be suspicious of Solterra’s motives given their lack of interest in working with the existing Waldorf Productions group and their desire to have them move to an unsustainable week to week rental contract.

    Solterra has recently said they have no intention of demolishing the site and so even if their plan is simply to bring on their own hotel management group then they will still be a villain in the eyes of many. The Waldorf is not the Waldorf without the creativity and daring of the Waldorf Productions group. Even in this best case scenario of the heritage hotel building being entirely preserved, there is still the disturbing Vancouver trend that it is seemingly impossible for venues and spaces to exist in Vancouver without being part of the monoculture of large, established chain restaurant/pubs.

  • Threadkiller

    @ Roger Kemble #99:
    You get no points for splitting hairs on heritage preservation. Yes, you are correct: The big Pantages Theatre was indeed where the A&N parking lot was located. But the smaller Pantages, built by Alexander Pantages in 1907, was equally important in its own way. For a useful (though now sadly outdated) historical backgrounder, see:

    I can barely remember the facade of the larger Pantages from my youth. I never saw a movie there. But the theatre you would dismiss as the “pretender” Pantages was eminently worth preserving. Prior to its final incarnation as the Chinese-operated Sun Sing, in the mid-70s, when hastings was still a viable street for businesses, it was operated for several years by a group of longhairs as the City Nights and in that incarnation it was Vancouver’s premier second-run house (they also presented occasional live-music gigs and similar events– but mostly movies). I saw movies there many times; it was, for a while, one of *the* places to go in town, in the sense of when talking to friends, a frequent phrase to be heard would be something like “Hey, the City Nights is showing “Casablanca” at midnight on Friday– ya wanna go??” Or: “Whaddya wanna do this weekend?” “I dunno– what’s on at the City Nights?”. It was a lovely little jewel box of a theatre, with loges and brass-railed boxes and an atmosphere of elegant decay.

    Side note: In the early 50s the Pantages, then the Avon, played a leading role in one of Vancouver’s most famous censorship battles. You can find the story here, recounted by the son of one of the main participants:

    It’s not at all helpful to, as I say, split hairs in preservation struggles. I lament the closing of the Granville 7 because, as a long time Film Festival devotee, I now fear for the festival’s future. My sense of loss re the G7 is not mitigated one whit by the fact that one block up Granville, where the hideous Eaton’s/Sears/soon-to-be-Nordstrom store now evilly squats, once stood the old Vancouver Opera House, a theatre grander than any of the others we’ve been discussing. The Opera House ended its days as the Lyric, where, up until its criminally-stupid destruction in 1969, you could go to a Saturday matinee double bill of second-run films for $1.50 and view them in the baroque splendour of a gorgeous, grand old theatre that rivalled the Orpheum. (see: As far as I’m concerned, the destruction of any of these theatres represented, and still represents, a catastrophic loss to Vancouver’s never-large and now-rapidly-dwindling cultural-DNA pool. Who the hell cares which Pantages was bigger or better than the other? They’re both gone now, and that’s a goddamned tragedy, not least because it was wholly avoidable.

  • “pop music which isn’t successful isn’t pop music?”

    Pretty much. After all, ‘pop’ music can run the gamut of pretty much any genre, if people take a liking to it. Unless you can point to a particular musical style a la punk, country, classical or similar and call it pop, then I have to go by the definition through which the original meaning came about.

    But, you know what? If you guys want to hold up your hands as proof that any ‘idiot’ can write a pop song, who am I to question your self-assessment? 🙂

    Cheers and Rock On


  • IanS

    @CK #110:

    “Pretty much.”

    I hope that you are as amused by your clever redefinition as I am. 🙂

    “But, you know what? If you guys want to hold up your hands as proof that any ‘idiot’ can write a pop song, who am I to question your self-assessment?”

    At long last, common ground. As I said, if I can do it, anyone can do it.

    “Cheers and Rock On”

    You too. 🙂

    (And with that, we’ll bring this little thread hijack to an end.)

  • IanS

    @Tiktaalik #109:

    “I think people continue to be suspicious of Solterra’s motives given their lack of interest in working with the existing Waldorf Productions group…”

    I’m not aware of Solterra’s intentions myself, but I think Waldorf Productions (apparent) repeated failure to meet its financial obligations (if nothing else) might explain Solterra’s reluctance to deal with them.

  • Jaketown

    @Tiktaalik #109 and IanS #113

    From the Moda Hotel website:

    “Moda Hotel Vancouver’s owner, a self-made Italian entrepreneur and Vancouver real-estate developer envisioned a better future for the property—something Italian-inspired with elements of fresh design and style, but still connected to its historical roots; something unique to Vancouver – something people from all the world could enjoy. And so, the restoration process began.”

    I believe this reference is to Gerry Nichele, owner of Solterra. Solterra developed the two towers across Smithe to the north “Dolce” and “Vita”, as well as the parking garage directly across from the Orpheum. Evidently not just a “condo developer”. He has other construction related businesses as well.

    The short term lease commitment offered to WCT was by its landlord, the owner of the Waldorf, reflecting what the vast majority of commercial landlords would do if faced with a breached lease and $370K in rental arrears that they ultimately forgave. Apparently the idea of continuing to give control of a valuable real estate asset to a tenant that had not demonstrated the ability to create a sustainable business lost its appeal – imagine that.

    The entertainment business, including food and beverage, is one of the riskiest business ventures out there. Clubs and restaurants fail all the time, leaving breached leases, unpaid bills and bankrupt investors behind them. However, many of these failed locations are in operation today – different owner/new investors, new name, change the paint, etc. – because someone else came along and made something work there that their predecessors couldn’t.

    Creativity is not the exclusive domain of WCT. They obviously weren’t able to create a sustainable business model out of their concept, but what’s to say that with the right operator in place Solterra couldn’t?

  • brilliant

    @Bill McCreery 106-well said. waltsyss’ promise to be civil in 2013 lasted all of a week or two.

  • babalu1

    We digress?

  • Cheezwiz

    @Threadkiller thanks for post #110. I was going to attempt something similar, but you phrased it much better than I could have.

    BOTH Pantages theatres were beautiful and historically significant. Sometimes I wish the buildings we have lost could reappear magically like something out of Brigadoon, so we experience them temporarily.

    Among the most bone-headed demolitions in Vancouver History:
    Original Pantages Theatre
    2nd Pantages Theatre (later called the Beacon – was a spectacular show-palace inside and out).
    2nd Hotel Vancouver
    Vancouver Opera House
    Birks Building
    Georgia Medical Dental Building

    There are probably many more. Most of these were demolished before my time. Imagine how much more interesting our city-scape would be if even a couple of these were still standing.

  • Frank Ducote

    Thread killer – thanks for the very informative links. I now know something about Marcus Priteca, who designed all of the original Pantages theatres over 2 decades. A wonderful digression.

  • waltyss

    McCreery @#106. I make no apologies for using the word I did in #88. It is common partance and milder than words used in yesterday’s G&M éditorial. Your comments on this and other threads have hardly been objective and polite, so I am having trouble with your objection to mild vulgarities.
    I also stand by my comments in #88 which was far from a personal attack but simply a statement that did not accept that my comments were either intimidating or bullying.
    I also stand by saying that I have gréât respect for Ms Garossino. However, I also disagree profoundly with the position she has taken in the Waldorf issue. I particularly was disappointed with her most recent posts which appeared to blame the landlord or the purchaser while absolving her homeboys of any responsibility for their fate.
    There have been a lot of so called “facts” being thrown around. We have tons of opinion pieces either about the Waldorf or the need for cultural space; we are lacking a good objective investigative article about what actually happened.
    Did Waldorf productions have a 15 year lease?
    If so, why did they surrender it? Because they failed to pay their rent? Because the lease had an escape clause for demolition or the like?
    Was Waldorf Productions trying to shop the property or at least the hotel behind the owner’s back? What role did this play in the owners decision to sell?
    Did the present owner forgive over $300,000 in rent?
    Was part of the sale from the present owners to Solterra that Solterra obtain vacant possession.
    Did Solterra want vacant possession because it intended to demolish the building or because they thought Waldorf Productions were untrustworthy flakes who didn’t pay their rent?
    What representations did anyone from the city (formal or otherwise) make to Solterra about rezoning that site? At or about the time the property was sold? Since this fooforaw exploded?
    I could go on but it would make for a fascinating article if one get past each sides fervor for its own position.

  • Bill Lee

    @Threadkiller // Jan 19, 2013 at 3:18 pm
    and @ Roger Kemble #99:

    I was searching the VPL collection of city directories online for another topic, (How many Japanese noted in the area around Peter Wall’s dreadful 900 East Hastings monstrosity in 1940, before the shameful 1942 exclusion, explusion), and turned to Hastings Street.

    The Royal Theatre listed in 1940 is the ex-Avon, City Nights, Sung Song etc. at 144 Hastings East in those days, with the Royal Theatre Barbershop at 146, and next to Nordic News at 142

    The Beacon Theatre (later the Majestic) was a 20 West Hastings, Rex Theatre across the street at 25 West, with the Rex Cafe at 16 and Army and Navy listed as 25-27 West Hastings.

    And for the bicycle frothers, at 38 West Hastings, Haskin and Elliott bicycles.

    The 20 West (Pantages) Beacon was mentioned in Saturday’s Vancouver Sun, by an anonymous by-lined (Probably John Mackie) article on a 1943 appearance by Sally Rand there.

    See;rad for a photo from the Vancouuver Herald (anyone remember the last days of that and Vancouver Newspaper Row along Pender?)
    [ ( frozen acetate ) another reason not to move archives but give it a few more million ]

    This day in history: January 19, 1939
    Sally Rand was only 5-foot-1, but she made every inch count.
    By Vancouver Sun January 19, 2013

    Sally Rand was only 5-foot-1, but she made every inch count.
    Rand was one of the great burlesque dancers of the 20th century, wowing audiences with her infamous “fan dance” and “bubble dance” from the 1930s to the 1970s.
    She brought them both to town 74 years ago, when she arrived in Vancouver for a weeklong booking at the Beacon Theatre on Hastings Street.
    The Sun dubbed her the “stormy petrol of the stage, acclaimed by thousands for her creative dancing, condemned by other thousands for alleged immodesty.”
    An anonymous reporter visited Rand in her dressing room at the Beacon, where they found her stylishly clad in a blue hat and suit, “with a checkered tweed coat to set off her golden hair.” The reporter seemed rather taken with the dancer, noting that she “talks about current events as intelligently and as interestingly as any student of modern affairs.”
    “I like your Baron Tweedsmuir,” Rand said. “I met him in Toronto, and he seems to be a man not only highly intellectual, but one who sticks to his principles.” The reporter added Rand wore her hair “long with a few curls on top,” that her fingernails were “innocent of colour,” and that “she wears no jewelry.”
    Born Helen Gould Beck in Elkton, Mo., she left home to dance in the carnival in her teens. By the mid-1920s she was in Hollywood, where the legendary director Cecil B. DeMille gave her a stage name inspired by the Rand McNally atlas.
    She appeared in several silent movies, but found her forte in Chicago in 1932, when she purchased a pair of large ostrich feather “fans” and introduced it into her stage act.
    She was wearing a sheer body stocking behind the fans, but looked nude from a distance, and her male admirers were smitten.
    The ostrich feathers didn’t work so well when it was windy outdoors, so she came up with her other shtick, a giant see-though bubble she danced behind and tossed in the air. You can find clips of her performing both dances on YouTube.”
    The 144 Hastings East (Pantages) Avon etc. tried Burlesque as did the Star (crushed under the Vancouver Police Station on Main St.)

  • Bill Lee

    Another recent story resulting from the Waldorf Arts mess and confusion, was Kerry Gold’s

    “Vancouver builders follow the lure of culture ”
    Special to The Globe and Mail
    Published Monday, Jan. 21 2013, 10:16 AM EST
    Last updated Monday, Jan. 21 2013, 10:22 AM EST
    [ which was in Saturday’s (Jan 19) print copy despite the online date stamps with large colour pictures of the Waldorf, and the 144 East Hastings (Avon/Pantages) when the core was torn out but the front still existed. ]
    Vancouver is suffering growing pains as the landmarks and small beloved icons come down to make way for condo and mixed-use developments.

    The recent selling of the Waldorf Hotel to a condo developer felt like the nail in the coffin for many Vancouverites, after the recent loss of the old Pantages theatre on Hastings and the Ridge movie theatre on Arbutus Street. Before them, we saw music venues Richard’s on Richards and the Starfish Room get razed for condos. If I were to go further back, the list would take up this entire column.
    The Waldorf isn’t just one of North America’s original, lovingly restored tiki lounges, but a unique cultural complex that is the antithesis of generic.
    “We were smote by the sword we forged,” says Waldorf Productions operator Tom Anselmi, who’ll be forced out Jan. 20. “Isn’t that the typical Vancouver story?”
    Lately, it has been.
    Looking ahead, it’s not difficult to see the next targets. The popularity of the east side’s Main Street has placed that neighbourhood in the crosshairs of redevelopment. The location of hipster hangout the Rumpus Room, at 2689 Main St., has been approved for development of a four-storey commercial residential building with three retail stores on the ground floor and 15 dwelling units above. Nobody has applied for the building permit yet. Kingsgate Mall is also potentially slated for redevelopment that would include condos, and the developer-leaseholder has said he’d like to start the process this year, if possible.
    Like the Waldorf, the cool hangouts along Main Street are the victims of their own success. It’s nothing new, and Vancouver is certainly not the worst for it. The most famous case might be the former artist neighbourhood of Soho, in Manhattan, in the 1970s. The starving artists are long gone.
    Most developers know that where potential development is concerned, it’s safe to follow the creative types. They brought life to neighbourhoods such as Main Street, the downtown eastside, Gastown, Railtown, Commercial Drive – all of which have become draws for redevelopment. Chinatown is next in line, with a condo project slated for the heart of Chinatown at Main and Keefer. It’s a Solterra Group project, the same developer that purchased the Waldorf.
    However, it’s too simplistic to blame developers and marketers for the transformation. Everyone had long complained that the area around the Woodward’s Building was a ghost town, with its boarded-up storefronts and empty sidewalks at night. Now that it’s thriving with home décor shops and restored heritage facades, some are complaining that it’s become too pricey, too elitist, too gentrified. In order to infuse life into a neighbourhood that’s bleak or forgotten, it requires people not being scared to go out at night. That means more people, and more residential development.
    And it can be done in a way without pushing out existing residents and small businesses that give the neighbourhood its characteristic charm – the very charm that made it enticing to begin with.
    “You suddenly bring lots of people into the area who have purchasing power and you can predict with certainty the desirability of the area is going to go up, and we kept saying we wanted the area to be more vital,” says city planning consultant, Michael Goldberg. “Well, we’ve done that with the downtown eastside, and now people are saying, ‘we didn’t really mean it.’
    “The Waldorf is similar … No question. Some of the city’s biggest developers have bought property at least that far east of Main Street.”
    Mr. Goldberg is a former University of B.C. business professor who’s now a consultant and board member of the Surrey City Council Corporation. He’s also from New York, so he knows about city transformation.
    “In my view, Main Street is the most interesting street in the city right now. And it has all kinds of funky restaurants and shops, and different ones. You walk down there and you don’t see chains.”
    That’s the thing about the Waldorf, as it exists. If developer Solterra were to convert the building into a place for a chain restaurant, for example, all charm would go out the window.
    As far as solutions go, it’s probably too late to save the Waldorf as the thriving cultural hub it’s been the last two years. But the city could look ahead to preserve other such icons, says former city planning director, Brent Toderian, who now runs UrbanWorks. They could institute something similar to the city’s “rate of change” policy that protects old rental housing stock, he says. “It would be a proactive approach, rather than reacting to crises when a theatre, hotel, or any cultural asset is threatened,” he says. “It wouldn’t be easy, but as a city that wants to expand our ‘cultural infrastructure,’ we need to do a better job identifying and protecting what we already have.”
    and see also her first torch (1200 words) for the Waldorf area to the Astoria further west at:
    “Paint store sale heralds major East Hastings redevelopment ”
    by Kerry Gold
    Vancouver — Special to The Globe and Mail
    Published Friday, Jan. 13 2012, 11:14 AM EST
    Last updated Thursday, Sep. 06 2012, 12:01 PM EDT

  • Threadkiller

    @ Cheezwiz #118: Thanks for your comments (and thanx to Frank Ducote as well). I could make a number of additions to your short though well-chosen list, but in the interest of brevity, fro the moment I will restrict it to just one. As a film buff for more than 40 years, I admit to a soft spot for movie theatres. Hence I would add the Strand Theatre, which once stood where the Scotiabank tower is now located. The Strand’s exterior wasn’t especially distinctive, and its lobby was surprisingly small for its size, but at nearly 2,000 seats it was one of the largest of the downtown theatres and its prominent location made it one of the most important. Probably every long-time Vancouverite of a certain age remembers the Strand fondly, as it was the theatre that always hosted the newest Disney feature, both live-action and animated. This was big stuff to kids back in the day. Like a lot of kids, for a few years my mother would take me and a small group of select little friends to the Strand as a special treat on my birthday if a Disney film was playing. No wonder I feel nostalgic about the venue. And almost everyone who was taking English Literature in high school in Greater Vancouver in 1968 probably remembers being taken on a field trip to the Strand to see Franco Zefferelli’s teenage eye-candy version of “Romeo and Juliet”.

    Here is a link to an absolutely stunning photo, taken in 1924, that, amazingly, shows three of the buildings mentioned in our discussion (the Strand, the Birks building, and the second Hotel Vancouver): Note that the Vancouver Block, somewhat miraculously still with us and one of the supreme architectural gems of this city, is also visible. Note also that the Birks building’s beautiful terracotta facade only faced Georgia and Granville Streets– its back side was rather mundane by comparison.

    Side note: I suppose I must have been among the last people to enter the Birks Building. From 1974 to 1980 I worked on and off in the local construction industry (Labourers’ union, local 602). The work was often brutal but the money was good. One of the early jobs I worked on, for a couple of months in the Fall of 1974, was the massive project that saw the erection of the Scotia tower and what is now the London Drugs location (the latter, of course, is on the site of the Birks building). One day the foreman dispatched a group of us to remove some equipment from the basement of the Birks building, which was still standing although it had been stripped of its contents and was being prepped for demolition. We had to access the basement through a stairway leading down from the main floor. The basement itself was the site of a large excavation; the floor had been removed and was now dirt (this is done to give the building something to collapse into upon implosion, a fairly standard procedure). The combination of the dirt floor, now at a level well below the support walls, the spooky lighting, and the various workmen at their jobs gave one the impression of being present at an archaeological dig; perhaps the excavation of an ancient tomb. Like a lot of Vancouverites at the time, I was deeply saddened by the building’s imminent destruction and I found just being in that vast, tragic room to be emotionally challenging (God forbid one should shed tears in front of a gang of brawny construction workers). Just a few weeks later, the tomb-like nature of that space reached an apotheosis of sorts, when it was filled with the rubble of one of the most beautiful buildings this city has ever known. (I had been laid off by then– I was never very good at construction work– so I didn’t have to watch.) The preservationist movement in Vancouver, never strong (and still not), was in its infancy in those days, and the outcry to save the Birks building fell on stone-deaf ears (as it likely would today as well). But at least the Birks demolition acted as a catalyst to give it momentum. The struggle continues, despite having endured many defeats over the years.

    While we’re on the subject of theatres, here is a group of photos that may interest you, assembled by a local blogger. There were so many wonderful theatres in this city at one time, and so few of them are left. Here are a few that used to grace our streets (a couple still do):

  • teririch

    Wow. I didn’t know the Rumpus Room is also on the chopping block.

    I’ve had some great ‘non-hipster’ times there.


  • Frankenwaldorf!

    …and Frances thought we were sick of this subject. Ha!

    First, @waltyss +1!

    @Bill McCreery I think you need to be a little more circumpect about the exact issue you are supporting here. And with whom you toss in your lot. BTW, I think your attack on @waltyss on this was unwarranted.

    @Bill Lee #122 Re: Kerry Gold column

    Ah, the proverbial ‘chicken/egg question: which comes first. The ‘scene’ or the condo developers?

    While it may seem like development happens only in ‘happenin” places, let’s face it: developers will grab any land they can get their hands on that is in proximity to downtown and/or public transit. East Hastings and Chinatown meet both those criteria.

    Now, as for saving buildings like the Waldorf for ANY proscribed endeavour, that remains up to community groups and politician to hammer out. As I, Toderian and jut about everyone else on this thread understand is that the City has not committed to ANY real preervation policy for cultural places. Just paid lip service to reports and suggetions about policy—perhaps there is already too much payout on land that has already been banked—and not used for these purposes?

    As to the Waldorf building itself being an “incubator” or even ‘responsible’ for the flourishing of neo-artistic or renaiissance endeavours I say: bushwah. IT WAS A DILAPIDATED HOTEL SERVING BEER JUST 2 YEAR AGO! NOW, IT’S AN UPGRADED HOTEL, SERVING BEER!

    Does this mean that there was no art/artists in Vancouver before the Waldorf undertook its metamorphasis? Hardly. In fact, here’s an artist who persuaively argues that it’s not a building that inspires art:

    Art’s community hardly needs the Waldorf to thrive

    Read more:

    I do hope that we look at real preservation of ‘older building in this city. The current lack of logical planning is stripping the personality from many of our neighbourhoods.

  • Frankenwaldorf!

    Sorry, this is the artist Katherine MacDonald’s letter in full. As she rightly points out, the ‘new’ Waldorf patrons happily pushed out the ‘old’ Waldorf patrons.

    Plus ca change…

    SUNDAY OP-ED Multidisciplinary Canadian artist, Kate MacDonald, is a New Brunswick transplant to Vancouver. She has exhibited her paintings, digital collages and video art throughout North America and Europe, and has recently appeared in exhibitions in Fredericton, Venice and Massachusetts. Her paintings have been featured in international editions of Wired and GQ magazine.

    A press release last Tuesday was the last straw – or the last cocktail umbrella, as it were.

    Waldorf Productions’ inflammatory letter to Solterra CEO Gerry Nichele is just one more in a series of self-serving announcements that exhort Vancouver’s arts community and elected officials to act on its behalf. Vancouver’s media and city council have been hijacked over what is effectively a landlord-tenant dispute.

    The Waldorf is not a cultural institution so much as a media machine of its own making. The near constant dissemination of its press releases is only a measure of how many tweeters and micro-bloggers are desperate for shareable content.

    It is by no way testament to the hotel’s lasting venerability as an icon of the arts.

    I’ve been a patron of the Waldorf since moving to Vancouver in 1989. In that time, I’ve continued to support its bars, restaurant and beer store, but let’s put this in perspective: nobody cared in 2010 when the new operators took over and drove out the regular users of the space.

    Was it as hip or as cool? Not by a long shot, but there were bums in seats, events were still booked, and they made a mean curried sole – a signature dish readily discarded.

    I’m a member of the Vancouver arts community and to suggest that we are all standing behind the Waldorf ready to “carefully and rigorously scrutinize” Solterra’s development application is wrong. The artists and musicians that I know are too busy busting their humps to make a living to care about what happens to the Waldorf. It’s been reported that the venue’s latest incarnation of has done a great deal for emerging artists in this city. I challenge them to tell us exactly what those benefits have been.

    The majority of their events appear to be food-truck festivals, Hollywood movie nights and out-of-town musical acts. Fun? Sure. Supportive of Vancouver’s emerging artists? How? Its actual existence nurtures and supports fewer of the city’s working artists than the artists support it.

    When – and if – Solterra tenders its development application, the majority of Vancouver’s arts community will be too busy creating and promoting their own work to pay attention. As individuals, we understand that rent has to be paid or we risk losing our homes. The lip service paid by “cultural creators” like the Waldorf operators is opportunistic and condescending.

    As a community, we have seen multiple venues close – The Town Pump, Starfish Room and Silver-tone Tavern, to name a few. As one space closes, another opens to take its place. The culture of a city is determined by its artists, writers and performers, wherever they choose to perform or create.

    Guess what, Vancouver? The Waldorf as a cultural hub doesn’t matter one whit. Art and shows and culture existed in this city prior to 2010 and will continue to exist and thrive after today. Arts spaces and their bookers come and go, but the arts live on.

    Now give me back my curried sole.

  • Guest

    Downtown South was stripped of its nightclubs to avoid noise complaints from residents. i.e. Graceland, Starfish Room, Luv-a-Fair, Richards on Richards and the latest being Mars (or whatever its latest name was). Now they are all on Granville, which creates it own set of problems, but I suppose that’s better than noise complaints from throughout Downtown South. People complain about the slightest noise these days – even restaurant patios.

  • Threadkiller

    @Guest (and others):
    My memory fails me when it comes to Graceland, but The Starfish Room, the Luv-a-Fair, and Dick’s on Dicks (as it was fondly known) were all lost to developers. They didn’t shut down due to noise complaints. Further, the Luv etc. and the Starfish closed– what, 15 years ago? Yet the closure of the Starfish in particular has been repeatedly lamented in the ongoing Waldorf discussions in assorted local media as though it went under only last week. Personally, I miss the Retinal Circus, the Afterthought, the Village Bistro, the Soft Rock Cafe, and the Classical Joint, along with many other vanished local institutions, but I’ve had many years to get past it. There have been repeated losses to this city’s increasingly pathetic cultural sector in the past decade and a half. This is a city that has long made a practice of eagerly destroying as many vestiges of its past as possible, as though that past was something to be ashamed of. I’m not denying anyone the right to mourn the Starfish if it was that important to them, but it was merely another soldier in a long and vicious war, fallen in battle, a long time ago. How about namechecking some of the more recent honoured dead instead of reaching back into what’s already ancient history? You could start with the Yale…

  • Thought of The Day

    “Believing that Waldoofus Productions cared about the Art Community, is like believing some Hootsuite employees care about their former DTES neighborhood.”

    Frankenwaldorf! #124 #125
    Liked your comments. A lot!
    Kate MacDonald’s too. Good idea for posting it.

    Going back to the current ‘hipsterism’ emanating from the likes of Waldorfs.
    Last Friday was last day for Hootsuite aka the newest “Rent To Own” Vancouver City Hall, Giftee, in their old DTES location.
    You may think that corporate welfare would put some humility and respect for this city in the brains of this select group.
    Well you be the judge, the following is the message posted last Friday, as a farewell message to their host neighborhood… for how many years?

    Needless to say that the tweet was deleted pronto, after a tide of tweeting displeasure, and subsequently the digital fingerprint was sanitized less, ahem… one.
    Long live the screen shots!

    Why am I posting this? Because neither the poster or Hootsuite had the decency to offer an apology for the condescending, arrogant comment, re. their former host neighborhood. They are people you know!

    Oh well, for shame, and good luck Mt. Pleasant!
    At least now, they know who’s coming for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

    I’m curious what they’ll have to say when they move to, say… The Next Best Thing. Till then though…

    We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.

  • Cheezwiz

    Apologies for being way off-topic: Threadkiller thanks for your wonderful links & memories! Some of those photos are amazing.

    The Strand was before my time, but my Dad spoke fondly of going there to weekend matinees when he was a kid. From what I understand the original Capitol Theatre was quite impressive as well. I’ve never been able to find interior photos of it.

    I worked in the Capitol 6 multiplex during university, and although it was only about 15 years old at that time, it was already seedy & run-down looking. It was probably dated the moment it was banged up. Can’t say I was sorry to see that incarnation get demolished.

    Being in the Birks building as it was coming down must have been heartbreaking.

  • One club closes, another one opens.

    No Starfish Room, (crap sight lines to the stage IIRC) but we have the Biltmore.

    No Luvafair, but there’s the Electric Owl

    No Dick’s, but there’s Bar None.

    No Town Pump, but there’s…. at least a half dozen other places downtown where you can catch live, local bands.

    Live music fans complaining there’s a lack of entertainment options. Deja vu from 1950/60/70/80/90 or last week?

    Honestly people, this city has real issues to deal with and the reality of the entertainment business is that there’s always an oversupply of bands, actors, authors, venues, etc. A contraction in entertainment options is arguably a great way to help ensure the viability of the operations that remain. Further, there are lots of places you can rent and put on a show if you so desire.

    I think people such as the intelligentsia that frequent this blog are under the misapprehension that their tastes represent the mainstream.

    There’s absolutely no evidence to suggest that the largest cohort of people aren’t quite happy with predictable and unchallenging fare such as they can find at the Megaplex or McDonalds. Let them eat Big Macs and listen to Carly Rae I say, and who is anyone to judge another’s taste? I like music that sounds like robots fighting over the last slice of dilithium crystal pizza, but I don’t expect the City or the market to accommodate my tastes or the artists who satiate it. Instead I keep my eyes open for shows I know that I’ll like, and I do my best to attend and spend. The reality is that there’s a lot of talk about how people are just dying to get out and see a show, but when push comes to shove, they don’t vote with their feet (is that a three-mix metaphor?)

  • Bill Lee

    @Cheezwiz // Jan 22, 2013 at 5:54 pm #130
    One source (better indexed than others; Ron Keillor’s collection is more contemporary) is the Vancouver City Archives (before the 2013 almagamation)
    See back door (not much changed until it became the Capitol 6;rad

    Front door;rad
    Pipe organ;rad

  • Cheezwiz

    Bill Lee #132 thanks for the links! Didn’t realize the original Capitol also had a backdoor on to Seymour!

    And lo and behold, here’s a faded photo of the interior:;rad

    Beautiful! Protestors didn’t manage to save the original Capitol, but public outcry (just barely) saved the Orpheum, and look how much we treasure it today.

  • Bill Lee

    @Cheezwiz // Jan 22, 2013 at 6:36 pm #133
    Fire rules. And the theatre (see back view) is mainly on Seymour Street as was the Orpheum down the block. The Granville (main tram line) entrance was a bridge over the lane to the theatre.

    Which they could have d0ne for the old Pantages/Avon/Sung Sing) at 144 Hastings St. East, a bridge over the lane to Chinatown and to Pender Street to save the ‘right people’ from having to sully themselves on that part of East Hastings.
    Though it is good enough for 6 artists’ studios at street level now.

    Gives a whole other view if you would enter via Pender Street instead of from Hastings.

  • Threadkiller

    The pre-multiplexed Capitol reached some kind of peak in its career when it was transformed into a Cinerama theatre for the premiere run of Kubrick’s “2001” in 1968. Every “head” (doper, to you, as in “acidhead”– excuse the vintage idiom) in town attended as many screenings as he or she could afford. The view of that huge screen from the seats down toward center front was truly breathtaking, especially during the Stargate sequence… people who are too young to have experienced large single-screen theatres and question why the few remaining ones should be preserved simply have no idea what they’re talking about. They missed the golden age of film exhibition.

  • teririch

    I had the pleasure of visiting the Pantages Threatre in Tacoma during a trip last year. It was beautiful. Too bad our city council doesn’t have the ability to think forward and hold onto these historic buildings – they add so much flavor to the cookie cutter condo buldings and head to toe class retail building being banged up at every chance.

    You have to admit, the new buildings being built down and around the Olympic Village are ugly. They look cheap and generic. Here is a fabulous piece of land for development and this is the best they can come up with?

  • “You have to admit”

    This is the point. ‘You’ don’t have to admit anything. It’s a matter of taste and municipal gov’t shouldn’t be trying to preserve one taste over another.

  • “They missed the golden age of film exhibition.”

    They missed the golden age of lysergic acid making everything seem profound. Have you ever really looked at your hand man?

  • teririch

    @Glissy #129:

    I saw that highly offensive andutterly rude Tweet. And if that wasn’t offensive enough, she, didn’t have the balls to make an attempt of any sort at an apology.

    As I remarked, evidentially Hootsuite isn’t big on hiring the best, or the BRIGHTEST.

    I am happy you saved the screen shot. The woman who posted the Tweet deserves alesson in humility. (And humanity, but I think she is a lost cause)

  • waltyss

    “she, didn’t have the balls to make an attempt of any sort”????????????????? I like this, well, because it is so weird. The rest is just judgmental.

  • Bill Lee

    @Threadkiller // Jan 23, 2013 at 12:47 am #135

    The Strand, now crushed under the Scotia Bank tower on Georgia Street had Cinerama earlier.
    But that was a single screen and therefore could show fewer movies.
    The cineplex complex idea is that as a movie had fewer viewers they could moved it to another one of the closet-sized cinemas.
    Remember the dreadful Royal Centre cineplex where you could hear all the other movies throug the walls.
    I recommend to you “Four aspects of the film” by James L. Limbacher New York : Arno Press, 1978, Brussel and Brussel c1969. [ Sound, Colour, 3-d, screen ratios such as Cinerama ]
    Not at VPL

  • West End Gal

    teririch #139
    +1 on your comment. I heard about that Hootsuite’s employee insensitive comment on Monday, from a friend of mine (I do not follow twitter). What can I say, infantile and with lots of ‘i am way better than you’ yuppie attitude.
    No apology, makes it even worse. It’s a confirmation of sorts. Terrible.
    And Glissy #129, hats off to you for bringing this to our attention.
    Also sad to see that none of those community activists and politicos caught on this. Asleep?

  • @ Frankenwaldorf 125

    “I think you need to be a little more circumpect about the exact issue you are supporting here. And with whom you toss in your lot. BTW, I think your attack on @waltyss on this was unwarranted.”

    Fair comment. I withdraw my concerns about what at times seems to be waltyss’ defensiveness about Vision Van. Rather, perhaps I should ask that he/she (it would be helpful to know who as well) deal with me as a citizen concerned with how our City is evolving, and not as a member of the NPA. Please also do not consider everything I say to be playing politics.

    My comments and criticisms are from the perspective of the above “concerned citizen”. On the other hand politics for me is a means by to make meaningful change. I do not believe it is acceptable to just sit back and say: “ain’t it awful” in a democratic society. You have a responsibility to get involved in, God forbid, politics and do your best to do it better. Politics for me is one of the means, not the end.

    to better understand my concerns with respect to the Waldorf please refer to the Straight interview:

    My principle concern here is that Vision Vancouver’s reckless use of spot rezoning’s here and anywhere and everywhere else is indeed creating a ‘train wreck’ (sorry waltyss) of major proportions with respect to ignoring Council bylaws, neighbourhood plans, confusing, inappropriate, out of scale built forms, a chaotic and consequently over priced real estate market, unnecessary future congestion problems, and more that will ultimately create the opposite of the energy conserving, walkable, affordable neighbourhoods that Vision Vancouver say they want to achieve.

    As information has come forth it appears the Waldorf operators did not have a viable operation, and based on that its difficult to support their attempt to hang on. However, I do know some young people who love the stimulating venue and musicians. Both the musicians and the audience need to be encouraged and have viable venues, but not subsidized.

    I also happen to like the building (especially inside, the exterior could be improved), and believe its post War late art deco style is perhaps worthy of saving, but not by giving away copious quantities of density ( a form of subsidy). There are few good examples from this period, and the best should be retained.

    I’m glad you questioned the issues I am supporting Frank. I appreciate the opportunity to clarify briefly what I am and not supporting.

  • Bill Lee

    Yet more…
    Waldorf directors may have to sell homes
    Club debt will become personal
    By Cheryl Rossi, Staff writer January 22, 2013 Vancouver Courier

    Two of the four people behind a bold but failed attempt to revive the Waldorf Hotel as a cultural hub may have to sell their homes.
    “May is an understatement,” said restaurateur Ernesto Gomez, who said Monday he and Waldorf Productions partner Thomas Anselmi face selling their homes to cover company debt.
    “I’m actually luckier than some of my partners because I do have Nuba, which is a solid business,” said Gomez, referring to the popular Vancouver restaurant chain. “But my partners are not as lucky as I am.”
    Anselmi said debt accumulated in the first year by the company was being paid out of profits on a payment plan. “So at this point, with no profit coming in, that debt will not be able to be serviced and some of it will become personal debt,” he said.
    The two directors of Waldorf Productions are repaying Canada Revenue Agency, a bank and a union, according to Gomez. Anselmi said neither of them was on the payroll of the company, which leased space from the Waldorf Hotel.
    Waldorf Productions was moving “hundreds of thousands of dollars” worth of equipment from the hotel Monday morning, including gear from music instrument and equipment dealer Long and McQuade.
    “It’s stuff that’s actually sort of three-quarters paid off, so it’s kind of sad,” Anselmi said.
    Waldorf Productions announced Jan. 9 that it would vacate the Waldorf Hotel this month because the property is being sold to developer Solterra Group and the production company couldn’t operate on the offered week-to-week lease.
    City council voted to place a 120-day protection order on the hotel property Jan. 15 to determine the heritage and cultural value of the site before any possibility of demolition.
    Waldorf Productions reopened the hotel on Halloween in 2010. The company claims $1.6 million was sunk into creating a cultural hub.
    Anselmi said the money came from investors, a bank and savings he and Gomez had built up. He wouldn’t say who invested how much.
    “The investors have lost their money, as we all have,” Anselmi said.
    Anselmi returned to Vancouver from Los Angeles when he and his wife wanted to have a child.
    He said a mutual friend introduced him to hotel owner Marko Puharich, who sold the Waldorf to Solterra.
    “From day one, it was sort of a partnership,” Anselmi said. “The hotel had been losing money for a long time and it had been financed by the beer store. So the basic feeling of the whole thing was if the hotel could stop costing money, then the family would be much better off than they were at the moment.”
    He added: “It’s hard to describe the familial warmth that existed before all this money got involved.”
    Courier columnist Allen Garr wrote sources at city hall told him Solterra paid $15.4 million for the property, which is almost double the 2013 assessed value of $7.9 million.
    Anselmi says scarce and costly liquor primary licences make starting a new venue prohibitive.
    He said liquor licenses are sold for $1,000 a seat.
    “[For 200 seats], that’s $200,000 before you do anything, before a hammer has been lifted,” he said. “Plus you need a fixer to get [the licence] and move it and figure that out, so let’s add $20,000 on top of that, $25,000, maybe, who knows. And this is, again, before any investment has been made in anything the public will enjoy.”
    He said switching the liquor and food primary licences between floors cost Waldorf Productions $25,000.
    He added Waldorf Productions received a one-day suspension on its food primary license last fall because people danced in the restaurant on Halloween.

  • Terry M

    WEG, teririch, Gliss…
    Any response from Hootsuite? Yay, nay, sorry?
    That was very low brain matter from a “progressive” tech. Comp. Sheesh…

  • teririch

    @Terry M #144

    From what I can tell, aside from deleting the Tweet, nothing.


    Here is their blog on the move…. interesting choices of words, here and there:

  • Higgins

    I thought this thread is dead… then I read that insufferable “tweet” posted by Glissy @129 with complimentary info. from teririch @146.
    Are you kidding me?
    No reaction? Not even from Frances Bula… ? If that message was left by a “male” and also not a Vision Vancouver/ Robertson “friendly” partner… there would have been a ruckus!
    Go figure. Then again, coming from a woman, it’s really depressing. Phew!

  • Bill Lee

    So what’s happening, man?

    Without the Waldorf is Vancouver without “Culture”?

    “The data confirms that theatre remains vibrant in major cities. New York has 420 theatres, while Paris has 353 and Tokyo has 230. London follows these three, with 214. The number of theatrical performances is considerable. The total in New York is estimated at 43,000, with 32,000 in London and more than 20,000 each in Paris and Tokyo. However, theatre attendance is highest in New York at over 28 million, although London reports 14 million a year just for theatres that are members of SOLT (Society of London Theatres), which are mostly the West End commercial theatres. ”

    Is Vancouver a World City?