Joe Kool’s celebrates 40 years in London, Ont.

Joe Kool's bar and restaurant at 595 Richmond St. in London, Ont., celebrates its 40th anniversary on Wednesday. Andrew Graham / 980 CFPL

Joe Kool’s, an institution on London, Ont.’s bar and restaurant scene, celebrated a milestone Wednesday, marking 40 years of serving the Forest City.

“It seems like yesterday, but some days it feels like 400 years ago,” founder Mike Smith said of the anniversary.

Celebrations will take place throughout the week, Smith added, but said they would be informal.

“We’ve got a lot of people coming in today (Wednesday). It’s probably more of a local crowd. … I imagine there’s people that we’ll meet on Friday who are in town to see old friends. It’s just more of a get-together when people can see old faces they haven’t seen in a while.”

Joe Kool’s celebrates 40 years in London, Ont. - image
(supplied) Mike Smith

Smith, who opened Joe Kool’s in 1983, said his original inspiration came from a “Chicago influence.”

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“What I always liked about Chicago was you walk into a restaurant or a bar, and it was a mixed crowd. There’d be older people mingling with younger people, rich people with poor people, blue-collar people with white-collar people. It really was a cross-section where different characters got together.”

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As for the name “Joe Kool’s,” Smith said it came out of a conversation with a long-time friend.

“We were talking about what the name could be. I always had an alter ego called Lance Cordoba, kind of a Joe Cool type guy, a guy who thought he was really with it.”

“(My friend) said why don’t you call it Joseph Koolisky, kind of like his wife’s last name. We just had lights burn out on the sign so people saw Joe Kool’s, but it was as if a fictitious character was called Joseph Koolisky.”

Joe Kool’s celebrates 40 years in London, Ont. - image
(supplied) Mike Smith

Smith said Joe Kool’s staff are a major part of the bar’s history, especially for regular customers.

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“There are so many people who have gone on to do amazing and successful things. Then there are people who stayed with us. You hate losing good people, but you’re proud when they move on to a new career.”

Through four decades in business, Joe Kool’s has weathered ups and downs, from recessions to a global pandemic. The secret to lasting success, according to Smith? “A whole lot of luck.”

“We’ve had great people, both staff and customers, and I think our place is a little different,” he said. “We want to add some fun to one’s life, and London’s been great to us. We sure appreciate you all.”

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