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
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.