It was supposed to be a dream for bidders looking to snag a piece of Toronto’s luxurious history, but an auction of expensive items from the Four Seasons hotel turned into a nightmare for at least one local businesswoman.
Joan Hunter, owner of the Jazz Bistro on Victoria Street (the former home of the Top O’ The Senator), attended every day of the four-day auction that began May 31, and snapped up several items, including two large chandeliers, wall sconces, dozens of chairs, linens, lights, a high-end espresso maker and the bar from the hotel’s main lobby. In all, Hunter spent $27,000 on pieces to install in her bar, which is set to open this fall.
Hunter picked the items up because of their historic significance and the fact they’d prove to be good conversation pieces. The goods have already become heated talking points and they haven’t even arrived at the Jazz Bistro — Hunter says she and other angry buyers have been unable to access their purchases.
“The whole thing was a fiasco,” Hunter said of the high-profile auction, which she claims was poorly organized. She also claims there was little oversight to avoid confusion and theft.
“It was just a free-for-all.”
Hunter had a mover at the hotel on Monday trying to pick up the things she’d purchased and said, “half the things we’d bought he can’t find … there’s just a shambles down there.”
To top it off, she’s been told she can’t have her chandeliers right now because of asbestos in the ceiling.
“At this point, we’re just prepared to walk away from the whole thing and get a refund,” she said. “It was the worst auction I’ve ever seen run.”
She wasn’t the only angry person waiting to collect auction-bought goods on Monday. A man at the hotel was frustrated by a four-hour wait to get his items and another man said he’d only been able to access half of the things he and his colleagues had purchased, including fridges and safes.
The location turned from a former hotel into a construction site on Monday, complicating pickups. The former luxury hotel is being transformed into a high-end condominium development called The New Residences of Yorkville Plaza.
Auctioneer Alan Loeser, whose company IAAS Worldwide ran the auction, defended the event.
“It wasn’t a shambles,” he said, noting his company was tasked with selling everything in the building in 60 days. There were 31,000 items up for auction.
“It was too short a time frame.”
In regard to the chandeliers, Loeser said the condo developer will pay for the asbestos removal, but Hunter has to hire the electrician to take it down. And in regard to the stolen property, Loeser promised a credit or refund.
Hunter claims there was inadequate security monitoring — she said someone walked off with an espresso maker she bought for $1,200.
IAAS Worldwide organized the sale of everything on each of the hotel’s 32 floors between May 31 and June 3. Items up for bidding included furniture, bathroom fixtures, kitchen ware, marble flooring, wood panelling, photographs, grand pianos and ornate mirrors, among others. In all, the 15,000 items had an estimated value of more than $10 million.