Have you ever been out a club, looked around and thought “I could throw a better party than this”? We’ve all had that experience at least once, but the thought usually fades as the liquor bottle gets emptied and the night goes on. But Steve Palmer and Francis Gaudreault, creators of Pitbull Events, took that thought and created what has become one of the most successful gay event companies in Canada.
It started when Francis, then a bartender at Woody’s, started chatting up Steve, a patron. At the time, both had been socially active in the gay community for a long time and they knew the people, the bars and the scene inside and out. And frankly, it was getting a little dull. The scene appealed mostly to defined gay people who enjoyed specific themes and circuit parties. Steve and Francis wanted to create an event that appealed to them – guys who like to drink beer, dance, and talk without any pretentiousness or definitions.
Francis, with his marketing background, thought he would perfectly complement Steve’s experience in business management. Inspired by their desire to have fun, in March 2010 Francis and Steve called themselves Pitbull Events, bought a bottle of tequila and threw a party. About 100 people showed up, making it a rousing success. So they threw another one. And another one. Until every month, Pitbull Events would throw an unlabelled, open party for gay men just looking to dance and have fun. Throughout that first year, the crowd kept growing until they were hosting 500 person events, way over the club’s capacity.
Pitbull Events quickly became popular for the accessibility of their events. Their parties had no VIP and lower covers. As Pitbull grew, Francis and Steve also became known for their elaborate events for seasonal celebrations such as New Year’s Eve and Cinco de Mayo. For example, their Halloween party attracted about 750 attendees and featured a haunted house on the main level before you ascended to two floors of dancing. Their upcoming Pride party on June 29th is a superhero-themed party at the Phoenix, which will attract over 1,700 people to the ultimate celebration of gay culture.
Francis and Steve have seen enormous success in their first years due to their ability to throw a good party. As guys who love to party, they are adept at bringing that excitement to every event. This skill has helped Pitbull throw consistently successful events for Canada’s gay community.
Recently, Pitbull has been expanding their business outside of the Toronto area, planning events in Montreal and Vancouver. Tasting success in Toronto, they realize that the winning formula in Toronto is not necessarily the winning formula everywhere. Montreal has a different taste in music, enjoying less vocals and more beats. Vancouver, on the other hand, has a much smaller gay community, so they have to reach out to a larger geographic area. Additionally, one of Pitbull’s most ambitious parties will be in Toronto next year in honour of the city’s nomination to be the host for World Pride 2014.
The world will know about Pitbull Events prior to World Pride, however, as they are currently going beyond just party planning. They are organizing the first annual Pitbull cruise, ready to set sail along the Caribbean from February 8-15, 2014.
WORDS: BRIAN SWEIGMAN
PHOTOS: ISAAC ZELUNKA