Mock-acerbic owner of Lou’s Pub helped launch Lakeview renaissance
Louis Zaden has spent all of his life in Birmingham, and, following in his parents’ footsteps, he has spent almost all of it in the restaurant and bar business.
The mustachioed, mock-acerbic proprietor of Lou’s Pub & Package Store also has had a major role in the Lakeview renaissance, which began in the mid-1980s and has expanded in recent years.
When he founded the eponymous pub in 1987, “there was no one here except Bombay (Cafe),” Zaden recounts. “The area was run-down, the buildings were vacant and dilapidated. There weren’t even any street lights.”
Now, however, the burgeoning entertainment zone is hoppin’. Within the past several years, the district has become home to any number of restaurants and bars. There is the Barking Kudu, the Irish-themed Innisfree Pub, Jim & Nick’s Bar-B-Q & Catering, On Tap Sports Cafe and OT’s Neighborhood Sports Grill, to name just a few of the establishments.
They have brought with them a new wave of customers to the benefit of all.
“They’re not my competitors, they’re my neighbors,” Zaden says. “Everyone has something unique. We complement one another. We get some of their business, and they get some of ours.”
A family tradition
Zaden’s “father and mother were in the restaurant and lounge business, and I began helping out when I was six or seven,” he says, “washing dishes, mopping floors, taking out the trash.”
His father opened a drive-in on Southside in the 1950s in the days of car hops; his mother subsequently opened a fast-food restaurant, also on the Southside; and, in 1970, “my father opened the Coalyard Restaurant on Third Avenue South, across from the old Liberty National Insurance building,” he says. “By then I was 21, and my father had a liquor license, and so I began learning the liquor aspect of the business.”
Later, he found himself dabbling in real estate by day and slinging drinks by night at hotel bars throughout Birmingham, where he built up a loyal clientele.
It was then, he says, that “I got to a point in my life and I decided to take a chance and open my own place.
“I wanted something unique, a nice neighborhood bar with a relaxed environment.”
He found just such a location in the then-derelict Lakeview District, opening his tiny pub and package store, with just three tables and a lengthy hardwood bar competing with the package shelves – beers, liquors, wines, mixers and cigars – in less than 1,000 square feet of space. A small patio lends the intimate locale a bit more legroom.
Link: Shut up and drink a beer