Charles Lew has big dreams of helping an ever-expanding city of dreamers, but you won’t find his head in the clouds. The owner of four [and counting] gastropubs throughout the expansive LA metro area, legal pioneer, and business consultant is a man of many monikers. But one should be weary of describing Lew as what he undoubtedly is: an entrepreneur, lest the definition in mind of the soiled version he has recently diagnosed in a recent LinkedIn blog post as “entrepreneurITIS.”
There is a cure, however, for the afflicted young and social-media obsessed “Sim Entrepreneurs,” Along with the check for various fake lunch meetings scheduled merely “for the sake of meeting,” Lew encourages sufferers to pick up a reality check.
“Unfortunately it's all a fallacy complete with imaginary business dealings, clients, and ventures” he says. “In fact, I believe that this particular individual spends so much time being a Sim Entrepreneur that reality and fantasy have become hopelessly intertwined."
While the concept of giving young “entrepreneurs” a check list of do-nots to eradicate the sickness of illegitimacy makes sense, the phrasing of the above case provides a read at odds with Lew’s perceived industry goals: marrying his clients’ reality with fantasy. If the fantasies of a new restaurant, a law school producing original content and implementing artificial intelligence, and business regulatory and auditing software are to become realities, hopefully there is intertwinement. How else does a future come to fruition?
Keeping these lofty questions in mind, I’m on the phone with Charles Lew, who has just returned from a routine stop to the Hollywood location of Stout Burgers & Beer. Suspicions are confirmed immediately. He has, in fact, been marrying customers and clients’ fantasies and reality— literally. The dream catcher once united a man with his dream girl.
“[The customer] was like, ‘It was really great because you came up all casual and talking about beer and then we were talking about you, and it was just a really good icebreaker for our date.’ And then he subsequently asked his girlfriend to marry him at Stout.”
Lew’s business is personal, but clearly the people don’t mind if his highly personalized method gets them closer to their dreams whether the envisioned idea is a new business, changed outlook, or even a newfound loved one. He takes cues from Richard Branson, who swears by fair and familial treatment of employees, and his mother, who set the sound bite “keep people fed and you’ll always be among friends” right ‘round in Lew’s head. Clarity in the philosophy is only reinforced when a satisfied patron bites into a Stout burger, after which that silent nod of total satisfaction says a thousand words.
He’s got the nod from the restaurant world. So what’s next for Lew? There are two major developments. The first is a software application to be used by businesses and municipalities alike for auditing regulated industries. Though a mouthful, the developing technology can be confidently declared as practical—especially for heavily regulated industries like cannabis, wherein regulation roadblocks have proven a high-flying nightmare for the city since 2018 began.
The second concept is harder to grasp. Sensing deteriorating comprehension on the other end of the line, the legal eagle swoops in to explain the creation of a two-pronged monster of a development.
“Next thing that we’re really focused on is Loyola Law School,” he reveals. “And it’s going to be working on original content production with industry-leading and world-leading attorneys on current legal matters that are affecting the global community and also artificial intelligence and its application in the law. So two-pronged.”
What do lawyers understand about the intersection of artificial intelligence and original content? Then again, stranger collaborations have happened or app-ened, rather. Uber is working with NASA (link to Flaunt blurb) to engineer flying taxis, and CoverGirl partnered with Lucasfilm to create a “light and dark side” ad.
“They understand the need for original content and they’re trying to get out there in front of the social media world,” he adds, “and also they understand that artificial intelligence is going to be making huge moves in the profession and it’s going to be changing the way law is practiced, so it’s better to kind of embrace it and work with it rather than against it.”
In the future, Lew would like to continue acting as an agency for change and helping others embrace their futures. A new moniker is added. He’s unsure of the road one takes to achieve the perpetually forward-thinking identity, though he’s already traversed it many times.
“I like that much better than entrepreneur,” Lew says. “I love the idea of being a futurist, so yeah what’s better than sitting around thinking about what’s coming next? I’m not really sure how you become a futurist, so yes I would one day like to be a futurist.”
Earning the unofficial title, he expertly predicts journalism’s future. It’s one that is of, by, and for the people.
“I think it’s going to just continue to evolve on contribution like a content contribution. Everybody’s going to be contributing content, which I think is super fun and exciting…imagine seeing what an 8-year-old thinks about on content.”
The 8-year-old referenced is Lew’s niece, who loves to write her own captions for social media. Using those same digital publishing tools, his 81-year-old mother writes book reviews. Putting Black Mirror-aggravated fear of artificial intelligence aside, Lew’s vision for one big family dinner with seats reserved for a motley crew from dissimilar industries is in plain view. Finally, the ever-hopeful “futurepreneur’s” master plan for the foreseeable future and beyond is made known: to continue betting that the city of dreams will not, for any reason defer his.
“Everything is possible in this city. Like I can wake up tomorrow and do whatever I want, and someone will support me and encourage me.”
Charles is a lawyer, restaurateur and consultant who owns and operates multiple hospitality concepts across the United States. Charles is recognized as one of the city’s leading experts on not only the operational aspects of restaurants but the equally important although lesser understood licensing, permitting and zoning of hospitality venues.
Charles has appeared on the podcasts Entrepreneur on Fire, Restaurant Unstoppable, and Theater of the Courtroom and has been featured in The Los Angeles Business Journal as “Best Up-and-Coming Restaurant Developer.” He has appeared in FLAUNT magazine’s “Power Hour” with a title reference “nightlife impresario.” And appeared in published editorials in Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Signature Magazine, and The Huffington Post to name a few.