This article was published on June 10th, 2015
Bearracuda has seen tremendous growth from its conception ten years ago in a filthy grimy club in San Francisco, to 46 cities, including 15 Pride events this summer, and now its second cruise. The latest city is Albuquerque where there’ll be a Bearracuda event for their Pride festival.
Matt Bearracuda, the founder of Bearracude, had been working in the gay scene since he was 21 and while he was aware of bears themselves, he wasn’t aware of a community. Matt Bearracuda has spent his 30s building these events and explains why they’ve been so successful and what he plans for the future.
“When I was 30 I moved back to San Francisco from Sydney and I had a fire in my ass and I wanted to do something new,” Matt Bearracuda said. “There was a void in the gay scene. I wanted more of a social party with a dance element, so I started doing a monthly party in San Francisco.” The cover for these bear parties was $5. It took a year before anyone came, and two years before he started to make any money.
But while there are many club promoters out there throwing club nights, not many expand across a continent. Matt Bearracuda explain his success. “It’s finding a niche market and your heart has to be into it,” said Matt Bearracuda. “If I didn’t like bears, it wouldn’t make sense for me to do this. It would be something that’s just for the money and the love for doing it would fade quickly. I love the bear community.”
San Francisco is also a great testing ground for events. It is so saturated that if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere else in North America.
Matt also ensures his events have a certain atmosphere that is fun and friendly. “It’s not a club where you’re going to stand and pose all night,” explains Matt Bearracuda. “The main thing is we want it to be a place where you can meet people. My roommates met at Bearracuda. It is a social place to meet people. You can come and dance too.”
Whether it’s bar parties with a dance element to a full multimillion dollar nightclub, the atmosphere remains a place where everyone is welcome.
Matt Bearracuda has also managed to create a space where bears can get sexy and sexual. “I think bears are as sexy as hell,” said Matt Bearracuda. “When I first started going out into the bear scene, the bear bars seemed a little more conservative. For an alternative part of the gay community they were a little conservative. There’s very little body shaming going on at our clubs. So boys have their shirts off and I think more flesh takes down a wall and I think people are more approachable. And if they’re sexually charged, that’s great.”
But Matt wasn’t content with just club nights and has now added an additional element, cruising. Not the kind in the park late at night, but the kind on the ocean. “We’ve been in Atlanta for five years and the manager of [Heretic] approached us about doing a cruise and he said wouldn’t it be great for us to do a cruise together. Because in Atlanta, it’s a cruise culture down there.”
The first Bearracuda cruise set sail this past January out of Miami on Celebrity cruiselines. “We got to go to a tropical island,” described Matt Bearracuda. “There were a lot of fun things to do and we were kind of spoiled for choice on what to do. We had events at night. It was just a great great deal. With a cruise, you get your food, accommodation, and travel, all for one price. It’s actually kind of a cheap vacation. The cruise was amazing.”
Matt Bearracuda is building on that cruise and having the next one on January 31, 2016 out of L.A. on Princess Cruises, stopping along Mexico’s Pacific coast, including Puerto Vallarta, Mexico’s gay capital. “Princess has a proper nightclub with nightclub lighting, nighclub sound, so we just have to walk in and plug in. and there’s more of a proper dance floor. The food on Princess is supposed to be really good. The food is phenomenal!”
With the cruise sailing out of the West Coast, where Bearracuda’s main customer base is, Matt expects an even bigger crowd. But that’s not all, he’s teamed up with Pit Bull out of Toronto, and there will be another gay group on board. So rather than a couple of hundred people, the gay contingent on the next cruise is expected to be around 500.
“We have hit every city we want to go to,” said Matt Bearracuda. “We want to strengthen the cities we have and work on the cruise which is a year’s worth of work. Our eventual goal, because the ship holds 3000 people, is to have a full alternative gay cruise, where we have all sorts of gay people but make it a majority bear cruise.”
As Matt Bearracuda turns 40 later this year, he’s nothing but upbeat. “I’m looking forward to my 40s,” Matt Bearracuda said. “I meet a lot of 50 somethings that feel like they’re 20. Physically and mentally I don’t feel 40. It doesn’t scare me. My old roommate in Portland is 50 and he’s always doing things and up on current events and not trapped in the past. So he’s very young in his mind and he has boys throwing themselves at him. So being 40 doesn’t scare me. I have no worries about growing old. I’ll just keep going down the path I’m on and I’ll be in good shape.”