By Andrew Willis, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The popular Casa Alto Vidigal guesthouse has reopened its doors after an ownership dispute between expatriates caused the business to close for several months. Coverage of the case has boosted interest in the venue, says the founder of the guesthouse, with other investors increasingly looking to snap up properties inside the ‘pacified’ favela community.
Located in Rio de Janeiro’s Zona Sul (South Zone) beside the wealthy Leblon neighborhood, Vidigal enjoys excellent views over Leblon and Ipanema beaches. Because of this, interest in the favela has been intense for several years, with a row breaking out last September over the rightful owner of Casa Alto Vidigal.
Guesthouse founder Andreas Wielend was visiting his native home in Austria in September when German investor Rolf Glaser reportedly turned up at the building and evicted its residents. All the furniture and possessions were thrown out, and putting new locks on the doors, Glaser claimed to be the rightful owner.
“We got into a civil process of “reintegração de posse” [repossession] and the judge gave us a [injunction] and we took back the house with two court officials and the police,” Wielend told The Rio Times.
“We took [it back] on December 21st and we decided to announce our return with a party, in order to let people know that we are open again,” Wielend continued. “We were preparing for 120 people but about 450 turned up. I think that after the turmoil our name has become more widely known.”
In recent years the guesthouse has become popular with Brazilians and international tourists, and is also well known for its weekend parties that often last until well after sunrise. Wilson Hu, an American expatriate living in Rio describes, “I think what makes it so fun is that it sounds dangerous to go to a [favela] like Vidigal… but once you find out that its not, it becomes kinda cool.”
“The plan is to return the guesthouse to what it was before the dispute closed the premises. We had plans to install a bar from Wednesday to Sunday but we won’t do that now for the moment,” says Wielend.
“About R$40,000 worth of belongings were stolen from the guesthouse after the closure, including a music mixer and valuable kitchen knives imported from Germany.”
Glaser gives a different account of events. “Wielend does not have proof of payment [for the building],” he says. “The [hostel] caretaker took a lot of stuff because he did not get paid.” Several court cases have now been opened between the two men in order to resolve the dispute. A final resolution, however, is like to take many months, if not years.
In the meantime, the bust-up has failed to dent investor interest in the Vidigal favela, which was pacified and received its UPP a year ago. Last month a businessman from São Paulo reportedly bought three homes near the Casa Alto Vidigal guesthouse, each one for roughly R$200,000.
“I’m also getting more and more offers to buy the guesthouse,” says Wielend. “Anyone who bought property in Vidigal a few years ago would get two or three times the original price if they sold it today.”