5 Things You Should Know About the Waldorf Hotel

The newly renovated (extraordinarily cool) Waldorf is more than just a kitschy hotel.

Credit: Waldorf Hotel archives

The Waldorf Hotel has some serious history and it’s about to make some more as Vancouver’s premier multi-purpose concept space


In case you didn’t hear on Facebook, the Waldorf Hotel threw a big Halloween party to celebrate its relaunch on October 30, 2010. Judging by the nearly 5,000 people who RSVP’d for the free event, Vancouver is excited to welcome this kind of innovative, multi-purpose space.


I spoke to the hotel’s “brand manager,” Daniel Fazio, and got him to tell me five things people should know about this storied space.


“We uncovered a lot of things that we didn’t know before,” he said. “It was like a research project.”


An image of the newly renovated Waldorf hotel

A rendering of the newly reimagined Waldorf Hotel, which includes a hotel, dining room, cafe, bar, live music venue, hair salon and gift shop.


5 things you should know about the Waldorf Hotel


1. Mai tai, anyone?

The Waldorf was originally built in 1947. It was best known for being a premier North American tiki bar, which was launched eight years later in 1955. It’s since been restored to exhibit the same unique Polynesian atmosphere that can only be felt in, well, a tiki bar.


2. The Picasso of black velvet paintings

The hotel owns 14 original Egar Leeteg black velvet paintings. Leeteg is considered to be the father of this art form, or as Fazio puts it, “the Picasso of black velvet paintings.”


3. All analog, all the time

The hotel is currently in the process of installing installed an all-analog sound system that will only plays cassettes and vinyl. That means, no MP3s or digital devices. The sound system will be is hooked up to a pair of $70,000 JBL speakers that were uncovered in the hotel’s basement.  


“DJs are freaking out because it creates a challenge for them,” said Fazio.


But that doesn’t mean they’re protesting: the launch of the Waldorf’s weekly Friday night XO parties, on October 29, has nine DJs signed on to spin in three rooms. [Cancelled until further notice.]


4. Punk cred

The hotel’s co-owner Thomas Anselmi was in a bunch of Vancouver punk bands, like Slow and Copyright. That’s why the Waldorf is taking a strong direction toward music.


A recording studio is being built and will eventually house a musician-in-residence program.


4b. Food cred

Restauranteur Ernesto Gomez, of Nuba fame, is the other owner and will be heading the hotel’s two restaurants.


5. It’s got roots

If you’re wondering where the money came for such an ambitious project, here’s the answer: Marco and Vesna Puharich, who’ve owned the property since 1971, are still involved. “That’s the only reason this is possible without a kagillion dollars,” said Fazio. “They’ll retain ownership in the property so if the hotel does well, they’ll benefit.”


Ultimately, the purpose of the hotel is to create a sense of escapism within the city. (It’s somewhat remote location, near Commercial and Hastings, will help with that.)


“We’re not creating a kitschy experience,” said Fazio. “We’re all too interested in contemporary culture and art to create a kitschy hotel. We’re taking the spirit of the original hotel, updating it and making it resonate with people today.”


Waldorf Hotel brand manager Daniel Fazio, circa 1997

Brand manager Daniel Fazio playing a gig at the Waldorf, circa 1997.


[Updated: 16 November 2010]