Lou opened Lou’s Pub 23 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.”
R.I.P, Lou Zaden
No, there’s no food, unless you count trail mix or bags of Zapp’s potato chips, or takeout from Kelly’s or Rags next door, but Lou’s Pub & Package Store in the Lakeview area was for years a big part of our evenings out — and now it will never be the same, with the death of owner and founder Lou Zaden this week.
Zaden, who was 59, greeted customers with “Hey, Baby!” and was known for giving customer a hard time — all in fun. The bar was named by Esquire magazine last year as one of the Best Bars in America, and celebrated its 21st anniversary this month.
Lou’s Pub has often been compared to bar in the TV show “Cheers,” where “everybody knows your name.”
We haven’t been to Lou’s as often in recent years, as having a preschooler does put a damper on alcoholic binges. Last time I was there, with my sister, Lou put on a big act of acting hurt, putting his nose up in the air and ignoring me before giving me a big smile.
As the Birmingham Business Journal noted in a 2003 article, Lou’s had a major role in the Lakeview renaissance, which began in the mid-1980s and has expanded in recent years.
Various Memorials from Lou’s Friends
- Scott Gordon, “I loved that man and him mama from when they were at the Coalyard with Mr. George. Now that’s old school. Good folks and good times always.”
- Pam Therrell, “Had many a good day/night with Lou, Helen, Michael, Frankie, Wilma, and those that couldn’t take the butt chewing. My sides were always sore from laughing that is until the check came. Roll Tide,Baby! My favorite bar ever.”
- Gary Snow, “I have followed Lou and Wilma since the 70’s. My friend Jim and I would go to the bar Lou and Wilma was working at that time and as usual we got a ass cussing like nobody’s business not just because it was Lou but becuase we were underage at the time. Lou being the guy he was sat us at the bar so he could watch us and h…e would serve us coke’s with cherry juice in it. Hell he may have invented cherry coke for all I know. Anyway he said people wont know what your drinking and maybe you can get lucky with the women..with that he let loose with one of those loud Lou Zaden laughs which made us feel the underage that we were. He always remembered that story anytime we saw each other he brought it up. Cant nobody call me a A- Hole like Lou!”
- Gary Smith, “Lou was a close friend before Lou’s. I think about him all the time! What a kind and gentle man at heart! The “gruf” and “bark” was all fun (unless you throw a beer bottle and it skips across the bar several times) or play a “joke” on him with others and drink a bottle of “paid for” wine in the restroom and leave the b…ottle and cups in the bathroom. Then you tell him to look what “someone” did it his bathroom. I don’t remember who was a part of this (but I could not have been kicked out of a better place!)
God Bless and Keep his soul!”
- Gary O’Donovan, “I met Lou at lunch the day before he died. I took my business partner and his wife to Lou’s pub that evening for a drink. I wish I had a chance to know Lou better, I could tell he was a wonderful character.”
- Shannon Hutcheson, “Wow Lou, I still can’t believe you are gone. You were one of my very favorite customers and never ceased to make me laugh every time you came in. We all mis you and were all devastated by your passing. Papa J got his coin back and returned it to its rightful owner, you.”