From a shady sidewalk on East Hastings Street, it’s easy to spot the black-and-white building in the bright summer sun, a palm tree sign paying homage to the oasis within.
The Waldorf beckons with the promise of respite on a sweltering day.
Megaphone vendor Bernie Bouzane snapped this photo of the heritage building—steadfast and bold amid the bustle of people walking and shopping, and the noisy engine of a passing transit bus.
The Waldorf Hotel opened in 1948 and has remained in operation as a hotel and entertainment venue, as well as a place to celebrate creative culture in East Vancouver, ever since.
The Waldorf is home to the oldest surviving Polynesian “tiki” bar in Western Canada. Bernie points out The Waldorf has survived the gentrification of the neighbourhood—a structural metaphor for the spirit and resilience of the people of the Downtown Eastside, including himself.
“I lived down here for 14 years. I was very strung out on drugs, eh,” he says. “I’ve been clean now for 12 years.”
Bernie remembers The Waldorf well from his working years.
“Going way back, 40 years I guess it was, I was a house coordinator for a [mental health] association. I had a girlfriend and every Friday after work—I worked from Monday to Friday, finished work at seven or eight o’clock at night—and we would head over to The Waldorf,” he recalls.
“It was always something to look forward to on Fridays.”
These days, Bernie catches the bus outside The Waldorf and enjoys the camaraderie he shares with the folks hanging around outside.
“I have met a lot of people there, just waiting for the bus. I strike up some conversations with people. It’s kinda nice.”