NAPA on the decks
IN THE FLOW - NAPA on the decks during a recent midweek party at Charley's LG. (Drew Penner / Los Gatan)

On a Thursday night, DJ MARSHiANN bounced around Charley LG’s plush second-story dancefloor, checking on attendees, as NAPA spun energetic electronic music. It wasn’t long before Brendan Sherry, one of the members of Where You At?, hopped behind the decks to deliver a slew of fresh-sounding beats, going back-to-back with other youthful DJs.

As the powerful and crisp sound wafted-out along a mostly-quiet North Santa Cruz Avenue, toward the bluegrass show at a Main Street coffee shop, preparations were underway for the bar’s future.

After about two-and-a-half years, Alex Hult, CEO of Flights Restaurant Group Inc., has decided to sell the space, which came with plenty of lore and baggage.

Charles Henry McKiernan
MOUNTAIN CHARLIE – Charles Henry McKiernan (1825-1892), from a portrait by painter Andrew P. Hill. (Discover LOST Gatos)

The venue was previously the home of Mountain Charley’s Restaurant and Saloon, which was founded by Jim Farwell and Jack McNamara in 1972. Farwell, a decorated Vietnam veteran and founding member of Santa Clara University’s rowing team, was the great-grandson of founding Los Gatos settler James Lyndon. The saloon was named after Irish mountain man Charles McKiernan, who was born almost 200 years ago and famously mauled by a bear in the 1850s.

Farwell died at age 48 in 1992 of pancreatic cancer. His wife, Sue Farwell, partnered with Los Gatos bartender Mark Achilli to continue the business.

In 2008, after selling the business to Esequiel “Paul” Garcia, Achilli was killed outside his Los Gatos townhome in a murder-for-hire that shocked the town.

In December 2016, a jury awarded $45.1 million in damages to Achilli’s daughter, Alexandra.

She told the Los Gatan her dad was murdered by Esequiel “Paul” Garcia, to whom Achilli had sold the saloon, along with 180 Restaurant and Lounge.

No payments on the damage award (which was reduced to $20.1 million on appeal) to Alexandra Achilli have been made, according to attorney Robert Bohn Jr. “It’s essentially uncollectable,” he said.

Garcia was imprisoned for life, with no chance of parole. 

Swinging Sword Swallower
Swinging sword swallower at the launch of IMMERSIVE, Sept. 27, 2021. (Photo by Drew Penner / Los Gatan)

Venue’s Fresh Starts

In 2021, San Francisco DJ Donovan Friedman and professional hockey player turned restaurateur Hult partnered to launch a dinner theater concept, called Immersive: Los Gatos, at the location, featuring spooky drinks, sword-swallowing and aerial dance.

“We’re tapping into something that nobody’s doing down here right now,” Friedman told the Los Gatan at the time.

The quality of the production did match what you might expect to see in Hollywood or New York.

Around that time, an avid disability-lawsuit-filer swept through town and hit Hult’s Flights restaurant a few blocks away. He chose to let that location go to focus on growing his dining empire elsewhere.

Meanwhile, the partnership between Friedman and Hult didn’t play-out as hoped, and Hult opened the re-branded “Charley’s LG” as a still-ornate but pared-down bar to a full house on Feb. 26, 2022.

On Feb. 14 of this year, lawyer Neil Chan established DJJ LG15 LLC, which appeared on a change of ownership notice posted on the Charley’s LG door.

Hult’s team plans an all-day bash on Sunday, June 2, where musicians who’ve graced their stage can play one final time, before it shifts into its cocoon.

“Charley’s name will go away, the venue will look completely different, and for many a lot of memories will be lost,” said longtime valley nightspot operator Chuck Oliver on Facebook. “We are excited for a new business coming into Los Gatos and fully supporting them.”

Charley’s general manager Pam Davis told the Los Gatan that despite ups and downs, the bar was doing well.

“We were hitting all of our goals that we wanted to hit,” she said. “We did not have Charley’s up for sale.”

When an ownership group with connections to Los Gatos made an offer, however, Hult—who has two kids and a baby on the way—went for it, Davis said, declining to reveal the price.

The buyers started making overtures around September, and the transaction was completed in April.

Davis adds that, now, Hult can put more of his energy into the restaurant-focused AI startup he’s developing.

Previous articleLos Gatos High baseball repeats as SCVAL De Anza Division champs; CCS playoffs next
Next articleWriter says mayor and vice mayor got the shaft in recent article about Town’s Housing Element
Drew Penner is an award-winning Canadian journalist whose reporting has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Good Times Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times, Scotts Valley Press Banner, San Diego Union-Tribune, KCRW and the Vancouver Sun. Please send your Los Gatos and Santa Cruz County news tips to [email protected].


  1. Hi Drew,
    Just a note to inform your readers of the fun and good times many of us experienced at Charley’s. Jim Farwell was a great entrepreneur and promoted many Town events.. He was a Lions Club member and we met there for luncheon meetings for a time. He had a dining room where many of us played cards and drank a beer or two.
    I recalled one luncheon when several LG Police Department Officers came rushing to my table, handcuffed me and marched me down into a Patrol Car and drove me thru town to the Grog and Sirloin (now Double D,s) where Chief Johnson (a Lion) was waiting for me at the bar with a beer…just a birthday prank!!! As I approach my 96th birthday, I look back at those “good old days” and sometimes wonder how we survived!!

    Jim was also the instigator of the LG Regatta, a sailing event at Lexington sponsor by the Lions Club which lasted one year until they emptied the Reservoir.

    Another event that made National TV news was the “World’s Belly Bucking Contest”. We set up a ring in the dining room with Jim as referee and had two contestants try to knock each other down just using their bellies. It was hilarious…. I was chosen to be the President of the World Belly Bucking Association, something I will never forget. The late Lion Brother Korte was a worthy contestant and won a number of matches. He Loved it…..We were invited to go on the road and put on a match for the Golden State Warriors half time show.. some fun!
    I am sure there are many more fond memories of Jim Farwell and Mt Charlies from other readers.
    John Lochner

    • Please sign me up for the newsletter - Yes


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here