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Hillsborough venue managers prepare to shift into high gear

TAMPA — Andre "Andy" Brouillard and Julie Juteau share a French-Canadian heritage, fluency in French and a desire to make sure a guest's biggest concern is finding the guy passing the tray of stuffed mushrooms.

"Air conditioning working? Bathroom sparkling? Room set and ready?"

All other worries fall on us, said Brouillard, 63, general manager of TPepin's Hospitality Centre in east Tampa.

It's the same for Juteau, the 44-year-old executive director at the Regent in Riverview. The social season officially launches tonight, meaning both venue managers will shift into high gear. With A La Carte Event Pavilion being put up for sale in December, 2016 already has proved to be a busier year.

But a wealth of experience will have Brouillard and Juteau ready to go.

• • •

Brouillard started his hospitality career as a dishwasher at age 15 and three years later was managing the place.

"I've been doing this every day for 40 years and still love taking care of guests," he said. "Seeing them smile, there's no better feeling."

Brouillard's trick is hiring multitaskers like himself who come to work while everyone else comes to have fun.

"I surround myself with really sharp people, motivate them and they make you look good," he said.

One such hire, years ago, was Quebec native Juteau.

"Andy gave me my first job in Tampa, starting as an intern in 1999," Juteau said. "He was a real mentor to me. He passed down his confidence, his positive attitude and his eagerness to please the guests."

Juteau's trick is making a connection with the client: "Every single wedding I still cry, and I've done hundreds."

The two hospitality experts share an abiding commitment to nonprofit organizations. Both are pleased to offer a 50 percent discount to 501(c)(3) charities to help fundraisers reduce expenses.

Nonprofits make up a third of TPepin's business, "about 75 events a year," Brouillard said, "plus millions of dollars of related venue costs are contributed."

The Regent, opened in January 2011, doubles as a community center and Hillsborough Community Center satellite campus.

"We are a secret and hidden gem," said Juteau, who books 200-plus events a year. "Once people find out about us, they are excited to see Riverview and Brandon are like 10 minutes from downtown Tampa."

The Regent's 10,000-square-foot ballroom seats 600, or about 500 with a dance floor. Theater-style seating holds up to 1,000 chairs.

Services are offered "a la carte" as clients choose from a list of approved caterers and vendors, "for all budgets and all tastes," Juteau said, adding that staff can be involved or not at all.

"We can provide everything or if they want to save money, they can take care of everything themselves."

• • •

Beer magnate Tom Pepin developed the North 50th Street banquet facility attached to Pepin Distributing Co. in 2006. It now books 280 events a year. The ballroom can seat up to 500 for dinner and accommodate 970 chairs theater-style. Puff 'n Stuff is the exclusive caterer.

"There are two things Tom Pepin wanted to accomplish here," Brouillard said.

"Really revolutionary type banquets, unique and spectacular and different.

"And that we elevate the image of beer as a major component. You'll see that we serve seven draft beers at every event."

A Rhode Island native, Brouillard learned the business working eight years for Disney Resorts, followed by 17 years managing hotels from California to the Bahamas.

"Hotels serve 24/365, you know, so you better love it," he said.

The Tampa Palms resident, a married father of five children with four grandchildren, routinely works 50 to 70 hours a week, including most weekends.

Fun fact: Brouillard handled 105 weddings in one month, June 2008, at Sandals Royal Bahamian Spa Resort & Offshore Island in Nassau.

• • •

Prior to taking the reins at the Regent, Juteau spent seven years at the St. Pete Times Forum, now Amalie Arena, starting as bartender and leaving as manager of private clubs and backstage catering. Among her duties, said the Riverview resident, was fulfilling the requests in visiting performers' contracts.

"Mariah Carey required her suite be pure white, painted a very specific shade, which we did," Juteau recalled. "Then her stage people were late the day of the concert and she never stepped foot in it. She went straight from her trailer to the stage and out the door."

But such demands were offset by the rewards of the job, like working the night the Tampa Bay Lightning won the 2004 Stanley Cup.

"Hockey is a religion to me," she said. "To witness my team win the cup was the most fantastic event I've ever worked."

At the Regent, the nonprofit discount is offered weekdays only, Juteau said, with occasional exceptions.

"Thursday is our big night for nonprofits and usually two weddings on weekends."

Juteau jokes that she speaks French and Bridezillian, choosing words "to defuse a situation before it becomes a situation."

"They're nervous. It is their one day and we understand that. We work hard to make them happy."

Happy hosts, happy guests, that's the ticket for Juteau and Brouillard.

Contact Amy Scherzer at ascherzer@tampabay.com.

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