Ed Kane is the owner of eight nightclubs and restaurants in New England. In Boston, he and his company, Big Night Entertainment Group, operate three restaurants — Red Lantern, Empire, and GEM. He is also the owner of The Estate nightclub in Boston. Kane, 53, recently talked to Globe correspondent Frank Olito. Here’s what Olito found out:
1Kane started in the industry as a teenager, cleaning bathrooms at his father’s bar, Kane’s Place in Quincy. When his mother got sick after he graduated from college, he started bartending, cooking, and cleaning.
“I grew up in the bar business. We were the classic Irish immigrant family. My family always worked hard, and the kids worked in the business. I started cleaning the bathrooms in high school. I made my way into bartending, but I was a [bad] bartender to be honest.”
The first member of his family to go to college, Kane graduated from Harvard University in 1983 with a degree in economics. But, he started on a very different path. In his freshman year, Kane was pursuing a chemistry major.
“I struggled a little bit trying to decide on a major. I came from a science background, but I wasn’t cut out for chemistry and high math. I also didn’t love being an economics major.”
In 1989, Kane opened his first restaurant, Stars on Hingham Harbor. He admits that he jumped into this first project without knowing much about building and running a business, depending mostly on instinct — and luck.
“I was fantastically naive. I had no idea what it was going to take to run my own place. I wasn’t obstructed by financial and design worries. I was carefree. There’s a little more to lose today.”
Although Kane manages several nightclubs, he admits to not being an active club-goer. In college, he preferred big rock shows, like the Rolling Stones or the Kinks.
“I wasn’t a really big nightclub guy. I’m still not a big nightclub guy. It wasn’t part of my DNA then. I like night life, I just don’t go out to nightclubs all the time. ”
Between the summers of 2011 and 2012, Kane opened three restaurants in Boston — Empire, GEM, and Red Lantern. Like most of his other businesses, his Boston eateries have Asian themes and features. Kane traveled throughout Asia a dozen times, and that influenced the design of his restaurants. When he went to Shanghai, he was inspired by the city’s red, gold, and yellow colors and tried to re-create it in Red Lantern.
“I like a lot of things about the [Asian] culture, and I like the people. Empire was an accumulation of a lot of study and discipline. I want people feel like they are somewhere else.”
Kane prefers the outdoors to the confines of a nightclub, and the quiet of country to the excitement of the city. He owns a second home in New Hampshire, where he gets away to hike and ride his dirt bike.
“It sounds very counter to what a nightclub guy does. For me, I’m more likely to either be in China or New Hampshire. I also go on a lot of hiking trips in Switzerland or California.”
For now, Kane has no immediate plans to expand his holdings. But he has his eye on one more opportunity — a large Boston nightclub. He said he imagines this club to be opulent, with 1920s-inspired decor.
“There’s no one who spent a lot of money in Boston on clubs. I think it’s wide open. I don’t think it exists as of now. There’s a way to do a responsible, well-designed, well-run nightclub without any problems.”Frank Olito can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.