The Business Journal salutes industry standouts for bringing welcome relief to the hospitality sector.
BEST UP-AND-COMING RESTAURANT DEVELOPER
Charles Lew, 34
Co-owner; Stout, Crown Bar and Gasser Lounge
In Los Angeles, restaurants and bars are often hot one day and not the next.
But restaurant developer Charles Lew is betting that Angelenos will always have a craving for burgers and beer.
Lew and partner Alex Kagianaris opened burger bar Stout in November along Hollywood’s trendy Cahuenga Boulevard. The eatery offers 10 different burgers, each with a suggested beer pairing, and tasty sides such as sweet potato tots and beer battered onion rings.
“It’s very welcoming no matter who you are, what time you go or how you are dressed,” Lew said. “The concept was everybody would feel comfortable.”
But it’s not as though Lew is a novice. He has found a niche developing restaurants and bars. He co-owns West Hollywood bistro lounge and celebrity hot spot Crown Bar and Redondo Beach rock ‘n’ roll bar Gasser Lounge.
Lew also has a day job. He and Kagianaris are attorneys and co-owners of Hollywood law firm Kagianaris Lew LLP.
Lew started practicing law in 2003, specializing in the hospitality industry. He advises restaurant, bar and nightclub owners on a variety of matters, from structuring their businesses entities to obtaining financing to negotiating leases.
For Stout, Lew drafted the investor agreements, negotiated and drafted the lease, and obtained the liquor license. But he also labored over details such as the ingredients in the hamburger buns, the thickness of the patties and even the merits of Stone Sublimely Self Righteous Ale versus Race 5 IPA.
James Sinclair, a principal at hospitality and management consulting firm OnSite Consulting LLC in Los Angeles, said Lew’s experience as a lawyer gives him an edge in building a restaurant and bar portfolio.
“He is the negotiator, operator and legal counsel,” Sinclair said. “That assures he will get the deal that he wants, and be able to say no to a deal where another operator might take a slightly less perfect deal just because it’s a deal and it’s good enough.”
Born in Scotland, Lew immigrated with his family to Florida when he was 13. He moved to Los Angeles in 1998 to attend Loyola Law School, and started working as a bouncer to pay for some of his law school costs.
“I definitely don’t look like a lawyer,” Lew said. “I’m about 230 pounds and do a lot of martial arts.”
Bouncing wasn’t just a way to pay for law school. Lew knew he wanted to get into the hospitality industry, and working as a bouncer helped him make connections with some of L.A.’s top restaurant and bar owners, including the operators of celebrity hangout Winston’s Bar in West Hollywood. He now co-owns Crown Bar with them.
Lew is now looking to capitalize on the popularity of Stout and the burger bar concept – which has become a phenomenon in Los Angeles with eateries such as Father’s Office, Umami Burger and 8 oz. Burger Bar – by opening two more Stout locations. He is looking to open a Stout in Santa Monica and one in downtown Los Angeles, all within the next 12 months or so.
“My whole concept was to have something with some longevity and permanence,” Lew said. “Basically, this could be re-created in Orange County, downtown Los Angeles or Koreatown. I wanted a successful working model that could be duplicated.”
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