Where’s Waldorf?


Formerly published in The Other Press. Jan. 22 2013

Enjoy Vancouver’s cultural landmarks before they disappear

By Elliot Chan, Contributor

Along the edge of East Vancouver, in an austere part of town, are relics of the old city. By day, the stretch of road down Hastings from McLean to Clark contains nothing more than a few auto mechanic shops and an abandoned Canadian Tire. For 65 years, the Waldorf Hotel has been a beacon for the district, but not for much longer. On Sunday January 20, the final lease expired and the new owners, Solterra Group, a real estate developing company, took over.

Since releasing the news earlier this month, the Waldorf has received overwhelming support from Vancouverites who want to preserve their local art and culture hub. Already, over 15,000 signatures were gathered for a petition to save the venue. For the moment, all that was accomplished was a postponement on the demolition until April, while city council determines its heritage values. So, if you are heading in or out of downtown these next few months, detour down Hastings and check out a unique city landmark before it goes.

But Vancouver is a big city crammed into a small space. Sure, the Waldorf is precious, but there are other notable spots that cater to arts and culture. Uncertain when the next one will be sold for development, we must seize the chance to visit them. I still remember four years ago, attending one of the last concerts at Richard’s on Richards, now a Yaletown apartment complex. Heartbreaking.

If you treat music like a religion, then a venue should be your cathedral. In Vancouver, the Commodore Ballroom on Granville is the Canterbury. Roomy, yet intimate, I can’t imagine the city without it. Hosting a wide range of popular and independent artists, you’ll have a hard time finding a show you don’t want to see.

Up Mount Pleasant on Kingsway and Prince Edward is the Biltmore Cabaret. Since the ‘60s, the public house has been a prominent site for influential music and art. After its renovation in 2007, the venue incorporated weekly and monthly events. Every third Friday of the month, Biltmore hosts the Ice Cream Social, featuring DJs spinning music from the ‘50s and ‘60s. And if there is nothing planned for Sunday nights, drop by for Kitty Nights Burlesque.

Out by the banks of False Creek sits the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre. Most notable for the idle indoor locomotive, progressive community programs, and live performances, the events hosted at the Roundhouse are always culturally relevant and worth checking out.

Way out on the other side of town at Commercial and Broadway, amidst the coffee shops and train tracks, is the Rio Theatre. Built in 1938, it has gone through a metamorphosis turning from a movie theatre into an arts headquarter. It showcases talent in live music, stand up and sketch comedy, burlesque, and independent cinema. Along with new releases, Rio holds screenings of classic movies on Fridays. It just so happens that Zoolander will be playing on January 25th. Two dollars off for those who decide to come in costume.

It is a great disappointment to see the Waldorf being sold, but Vancouver is still home to some of the most diverse entertainment locations in the world. As some heritage sites disappear, others will surely take their place. Let the renaissance begin.

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