After I finish my iced coffee, I hop in my car and cruise over to South Main Street to visit Ed Brady at his speakeasy-style restaurant and lounge, Vanity. Like Jess Simone of View Lounge, Brady started out as a promoter. In fact, the two have worked together over the years and speak very highly of one another. That’s par for the course in a city as small as Providence: with a population that’s just shy of 180,000, industry crossover is very common.
We sit side-by-side on a plush leather booth that runs the length of the dance floor. It’s not yet 6pm and the club side of the building where we sit is empty. Brady keeps a watchful eye on the bar and restaurant as we speak. He has quite an air of authority and it’s hard to believe he’s just 28 years old. “When I graduated, I moved out to Los Angeles with pipe dreams of grandeur and stardom,” he says. “Of course, you know how that turned out. But I did learn a lot about nightlife.”
The first thing Brady did upon returning to Rhode Island was to start 4 Zero 1 Entertainment Group, a promotions company that also produced a quarterly magazine for lifestyle entertainment. “I started by taking pictures at nightclubs for free and grew it from there,” he says. “We started View Lounge; we started nightlife at Aspire... I’d bring in celebs and big name DJs like DJ AM and Samantha Ronson. Back when I was a promoter at View, we’d have 900-1,000 people in on a Saturday night.”
“I learned every day from Steve Marra and I talked to him all the time about opening up my own place. When he died, I knew I had to take it upon myself.” Brady opened Vanity in March of 2012. “It was a lot harder than I expected,” he admits. “The introductory expenses are double what you estimate and there are hidden costs in everyday operations – linens disappear, the trash disposal breaks, there’s payroll taxes. I am fortunate to have a great team behind me. I would never have been able to do it on my own.”
One lesson Brady learned as a promoter – you’re only as good as your last show – carries over to his new role. “You can be the hot spot for a whole year, and then you have a bad month and you have to figure out a way to revive your business. It’s a constant struggle. You have to continue to change your business plan. For example, we recently opened our outdoor Bootlegger Garden. I want to make Providence a great place to live: one event, one party, one handshake at a time.”
Vanity has made a name for itself through its numerous charity bartending events. “We’ve raised over $100,000 for various charities through the help of many people in the community,” he notes. Despite success, Brady never lets himself become complacent. “Clubs that used to be doing 1,000 people a night are now doing 100. People don’t have a ton of money to spend so you have to give them a reason to go out. Luckily I have some amazing regulars and a loyal team. I try to be friendly, treat my staff with respect and learn everyday.”
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