Heartbreak Hotel

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Last month we experienced a somewhat surreal moment while watching one of our favourite films inside the very room that was a setting for one of the main scenes. The cinematic serendipity happened when Bruce McDonald’s classic punk rock road movie Hard Core Logo was featured at Film Church, a weekly Sunday afternoon movie event held inside the Waldorf Hotel‘s Tiki Bar, the finest windowless watering hole with fake palm trees and kitschy paintings of bare-breasted Polynesian women in the city.

The tacky Tiki Bar is just one of many things we are going to miss about the Waldorf, which announced on Wednesday it would close later this month because its owner is hoping to turn the newly renovated 63-year-old building into yet another condo tower.

Word is the hotel operators were having trouble making their rent on time, so the landlord decided to pull the plug on their 15-year lease and sell the place to Solterra Group of Companies.

The local corner of the Twittersphere promptly erupted in fury about yet another cultural hotspot disappearing in favour of yet another soulless residential complex, and Solterra’s Facebook page was soon flooded with messages from unhappy arts enthusiasts.

But while expressing outrage online is all well and good, we can’t help but wonder if the Waldorf would not be going the way of the Cobalt, Brickyard, Richard’s on Richards, the Starfish Room and countless other long gone venues if more people had ventured out to spend their money at the “cultural oasis in the middle of nowhere” a little more often. One of the owners of the now defunct Marine Club on Homer Street basically said as much a few years ago — that while he appreciated the outpouring of public grief when he shuttered its doors, it wouldn’t have happened in the first place if he’d been pouring them more drinks instead. We’ll admit that some of the penny-pinching members of K&K are as guilty of this as anyone, spending far too many nights in front of the TV instead of spending money out on the town so that we can pay our own sky-high Vancouver rents and mortgages.

There is at least a glimmer of hope for the Hastings Street landmark. The area is zoned for mixed commercial use only, and city council would have to approve a change allowing for residential development.

The mayor has already issued a statement saying that supporting the arts scene is “a top priority” and council is “exploring ways to support the Waldorf continuing as one of Vancouver’s most unique and vibrant cultural spaces.”

Turning down a rezoning request from a deep-pocketed developer  — one that was among those who paid for a table at a swanky pre-election Vision Vancouver fundraiser at the Westin Bayshore two years ago — would be one way for the Vision to put its money where its own mouth is.

(This post was first published in Kudos & Kvetches  © Copyright (c) Vancouver Courier)

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