When former Kon Tiki manager Louie Lazos decided to branch out on his own, he found the perfect location for his first neighborhood bar. In the spot previously occupied by Nancy’s, on the corner of Ft. Lowell and First Avenue, which moved across the street to the spot previously occupied by The Boondocks, Lazos immediately got to work transforming the well-loved occupancy. After more than a year of development, like installing a sleek bar and giving the place a new vibe, Louie’s Pub gloriously opened its doors in June of 2017.
Not even a year later, Louie’s Pub earned a “Best Neighborhood Bar” award and this little corner pub adjacent to a laundromat and fish n’ chips joint was quickly evolving into a destination for good drinks, a chill atmosphere, and on most nights, a place to dance. Oftentimes, DJs are regularly set up by the front entrance.
Just like all other bars and restaurants in 2020, Louie’s Pub had to assimilate to the pandemic but its doors only remained closed for a month or two. The bar was one of the first independently owned bars to offer curbside cocktails once the ordinance to do so passed.
During the “downtime” of the pandemic is when Louie and his wife Yvette started looking for a second location.
This was an interesting time for their hunt as many a bar was shutting down for good. Thing is, the Lazos’ had a specific location in mind, along with a very specific concept. Eventually, they came across a possibility in a business stretch on 22nd and Pantano Road.
A cavernous shotgun of an interior, home to a few, shall we say, “challenging” bars before, they knew they had found their new bar baby. One of the reasons is that it’s closer to their eastside home.
“Louie’s Cantina is going to honor our Hispanic heritage, along with this neighborhood and, let’s just say it, the heritage of most of the people here in Tucson,” said Louie.
After a long imagining, cleaning, rebuilding, getting up to code, decorating, redecorating, fixing, hiring, and then a reimagining of their vision quest, Louie and Yvette are finally set to open Louie’s Cantina on Thursday, September 8. The new bar will be open to its regular hours, 10 a.m. – 2 a.m., with or without the usual opening day trips, stumbles, and “oops.”
Thing is, Louie is a seasoned bar professional, and having known him since he opened Louie’s Pub, he and his staff will easily recover from whichever glitch that may occur — if it happens. It is your duty to show up, have a grand time, and not care if the WiFi gives out for a second or two. Get away from that screen and spend some time at a billiards table, or perhaps get lost in the rows of glistening bottles of hooch.
When I hung out with Louie before the big day, Yvette, who is in charge of all of the Cantina visuals and layout, was in the DJ booth, making last-minute adjustments while being sure the in-house phones were charging properly.
Louie was waiting for his lighting guy to come and install bar lights to showcase the deep collection of small batch, high-end, standard prowl, and well spirits displayed behind the bar. By the way, the bar is 100% wood with a triple lacquered finish, giving it a distinctive mirror shine.
To represent the various districts and culture of the Lazos’ familia, a local artist spraypainted the image of a lady bandito over the beer taps and the hand-painted Louie’s Cantina sign above the comfortable seating area, which has a design of traditional Mexican sarape blankets.
“We will be offering exclusive añejo and reposado tequila, but Louie’s Cantina is not going to be a tequila bar,” said Louie. “There is something for everyone here. Craft beers, popular Mexican beers, really good whiskey, and everything in between. Just like the Pub, the Cantina is going to have a certain vibe but is definitely all-inclusive to anyone that wants an honest drink and to just come in and have a good time.”
Louie’s Cantina is set to be the go-to bar for the neighbors, workers, and those seeking a dark yet well-lit (is that even possible) respite in that east-end area. During my time there a few days before the big grand blowout, a community table in the center of the room was on the way, and bartenders recently hired were being trained in all aspects of what it means to provide the best customer service. For instance, you can expect the staff to let out a loud “Hello!” when you arrive.
The flash of design and shades of black being the core back canvas make all of the images and neon pop. It’s as if you have stepped inside a welcoming hush club with local art and beautifully displayed Hispanic pride. There’s all of this with the fantastic notion that all are included to sit, play, chat and drink with a nod to our abundant Mexican and Sonoran verisimilitude.
Did I fail to mention that Louie’s has been voted the top michelada in various estates across the Old Pueblo on numerous occasions? You have most likely read about it on vast online opinion platforms.
You can experience that same lauded michelada, whichever your preference of mix or beer, at Louie’s Cantina.
Living closer to Louie’s Pub on Ft. Lowell and First Avenue, I plan on visiting the Cantina just a few miles east to enjoy the hard work endowment from my friend’s latest endeavor. That feeling is warm, inviting, comfortable and engaging to say the least. Those are traits that are uncommon in most bars deemed as dives.
Although, Louie’s Cantina is anything but a dive. It is a vibe.
Louie’s Cantina is located at 8060 E. 22nd St. and Louie’s Pub is located at 746 E. Fort Lowell Rd. For more information, visit Louie’s Pub on Facebook.
Mark Whittaker began his journalism career in San Francisco around 1997. It was for a small Northern California music magazine that segued into contributing to numerous magazines, websites, newspapers and weeklies throughout the 90’s and early 2000’s. Mark interviewed bands,...