Friday, August 15, 2008 | Bob Carlton
Louis Joseph Zaden, the cantankerous but beloved owner of Lou’s Pub & Package Store, died early Thursday in his Vestavia Hills home.
Mr. Zaden, whose booming voice, colorful language and outgoing personality made his Lakeview bar a Birmingham institution, was 59.
He apparently died of heart failure, his younger brother Nick Zaden said.
Mr. Zaden opened Lou’s Pub 21 years ago in a building that had sat empty for nearly a decade, and it quickly became a popular after-work gathering spot that helped transform the sleepy Lakeview area into a booming entertainment district that is now teeming with bars and restaurants.
“He made Lakeview what it is,” said Wayne Ellis, who owns O.T.’s restaurant next door. “He was not just a neighbor but a friend.”
Lou’s was closed Thursday, but as news of Mr. Zaden’s death spread Thursday afternoon, his bartenders and dozens of customers gathered on the patio outside to remember the gruff-but-genial character who greeted regulars and newcomers alike with his trademark, “Hey, baby!”
While they cried and hugged one other, many of them also recalled how Mr. Zaden would curse and yell at them if they had not been in his place for a while.
“That was all for show,” Frankie Juliano, a longtime bartender at Lou’s, said. “You come in, you expect to get cussed out if he hadn’t seen you in a long time, and people loved that. But underneath all that, he was a gentle, caring, loving person.”
After graduating from John Carroll Catholic High School, Mr. Zaden went to work at the old Coalyard restaurant owned by his father, Louis Francis Zaden, and spent the rest of his life in the restaurant and bar business. He opened Lou’s Pub with money he had saved from bartending.
Mr. Zaden also is survived by his mother, Helen Zaden, and another younger brother, Mike Zaden.