The Triumphs and Tribulations of the Trump Hotel Opening

No amount of decoration or luxury can distract you from the name above the door.

March 1, 2017

By Dominika Lirette

“Right this way ma’am.” A man wearing an all black outfit gestures to the elevator. “Allow me to escort you.” A woman wearing an all black outfit walks us down the hall from the elevator. “Welcome ma’am.” Large smiles greet us at the entryway of the grand ballroom where rows of grey cushioned chairs face towards an empty podium with a microphone. We are now seated in Vancouver’s most controversial hotel.

On Tuesday, the Trump brothers Donald Jr. and Eric, along with Eric Danziger, CEO of Trump Hotels, and Joo Kim Tiah, CEO of the Vancouver-based Holborn Group that owns the hotel and condo tower, took to the podium for a press conference for the grand opening of the Trump Hotel. The building’s condo units sold out last spring and according to the director of the hotel’s sales and marketing, Wendy Patriquin, the hotel has been “very busy.” City councillors and mayor Gregor Robertson, who has openly shared his disdain for having the Trump brand in Vancouver, were noticeably absent.

Tiah, who told the associated press last week that he was “locked” into a licensing agreement with the Trump brand, made no mention of any of the controversy. Instead, the son of one of Malaysia’s wealthiest businessmen, as well as the Trumps, spent most of their speeches thanking one another and celebrating their newest development. One of the only references made to the discomfort surrounding the event was when Donald Trump Jr. joked “I’d like to thank the press—just kidding,” and then laughed before adding, “It’s great to see you here. I’m shocked.” No questions were taken from the media afterwards.

(From left to right) Eric Danziger, Joo Kim Tiah, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump.

Meanwhile, hundreds of activists (and a small handful of supporters) gathered on the street in front of the building’s main entrance. The crowd outside waved signs and chanted in protest. Many described Trump’s brand as being symbolic of sexism, racism and intolerance.

Post-it notes pasted on the wall of the Trump Hotel by activists outside.

At first glance, the $360 million Trump International Hotel and Tower designed by the late Arthur Erickson, is a sharp looking building inside and out. There are hardwood floors, high ceilings, big glass doors and curtains draped against the ballroom walls. There’s a brand new nightclub on the third floor called Drai’s that comes with a poolside-lounge (just like the one in Vegas!), a Mott 32 restaurant that has an “authentic Cantonese menu,” and a champagne lounge in the lobby. However, no matter where you look the word “TRUMP” is emblazoned—making it impossible to ignore where you are standing.

Drai’s nightclub on the third floor of the Trump hotel.

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A bathrobe in the Ivanka Trump spa.

“TRUMP” is the first thing you see above the front and back entrance doors in letters large enough to be read without your glasses. A sign outside the spa’s entrance says “by Ivanka Trump” and the bathrobes have her name stitched across them. No detail overlooked, even the water bottles handed to attendees have the famous family’s name printed on the sleeve. The brand is everywhere, including the champagne lounge, or should we say, The Trump Champagne Lounge. The omnipresent logo has taken up residence on 1161 West Georgia Street—a fact that has generated more backlash than possibly any other hotel opening in the city’s recent history.

We asked seven people why they came to protest:


“The reason I’m here is because the Trump brand does not belong in Vancouver or anywhere in Canada. It does not represent us,” said Bill Hart.


“[Trump] has proven himself to be a misogynist. He’s proven himself to be a fascist. He’s proven himself to stand up for everything I don’t believe in and I don’t think he’s someone who should be representing American people. He shouldn’t be representing western people and it’s sad, but America globally represents Canada as well a lot, and I don’t want someone like that representing my culture,” said Stephanie Dobler.


“It enrages me that this brand is in our city. Ask anybody, Trump equals hate. Trump equals intolerance. This has no place in a beautiful multicultural city like ours,” said Susan Robertson.


“Women’s rights are a big deal for me. So, I think my sign is just making fun of the fact that he can be so terrible and say such terrible things,” said Samantha Fazio (far right).


“I am really emotional because in my country (Venezuela) we cannot do this, we cannot protest…our last president, he always included hate in his speeches. I see this in Trump, in his speeches, just hate. Americans against Americans, citizens against citizens,” said Norkis Arias (right).


“I think that with all the space that Trump takes in Canadian news, especially in local issues, we can take advantage of this opportunity to push through the messages we really need to be talking about…the fentanyl crisis, the housing crisis that we’re in, the gentrification of Chinatown and the Downtown Eastside. So, I’m here to occupy space and take up space and to share those messages with people,” said Angel (left) an activist who is part of the Occupy Vancouver group with fellow activist Matthew Kagis (right).


“I’m very mad about Trump because I think he is a corrupt person. I don’t like how he treats people and how he separates religions and countries,” said Florencia Castillo (right) with friend Melissa Puga (left).

 

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