In his “Bar Tripping” column, photographer Daniel Krieger travels the world to capture its most unique and photogenic bars. Up now, Lou’s Pub, a Birmingham institution that’s part liquor store, part bar.
On any given night in Birmingham’s Lakeview neighborhood, where there is neither lake nor view, you’ll find Miss O popping beers and pouring whiskey for a cadre of regulars at Lou’s Pub. “What’ll you have, hun?” she says in her gentle way, gray hair pulled back into a tidy ponytail. Like any great neighborhood bar, Lou’s trades in local characters, a know-you-by-name atmosphere and bartenders with a cult-like following. Unlike most neighborhood bars, however, Lou’s is also a package store (Southern for “liquor store”)—an anomaly in blue-law-laden Alabama. Opposite the copper-topped bar, all along the right wall under a neon row of Pabst and Coors signs, you’ll find a solid selection of bourbon, hard-to-find rums and enough bitters and Fernet to make a mustache curl.
Louis Zaden opened Lou’s in 1987. It took him a year to stock the retail side, buying an extra case of vodka here, some gin there, until the shelves were full. Birminghamians would stop in after work for a drink, a dose of Lou’s sharp wit and a brown bag to go. Lou and his pub were so central to the local routine that when he died in 2008, a block party of mourners turned out and closed down the street. The local Budweiser distributor even sent trucks to give away free beer.
These days, a roster of local legends—Miss O, Mike Curl, Frankie—continue Lou’s legacy, pouring drinks from the century-old apothecary cabinet: Old-Fashioneds, fresh-citrus Whiskey Sours and an…