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Saving Manuel's Tavern: Fundraiser meets goal in under 24 hours

When folks need help, Atlantans still answer the call, despite the pandemic.

ATLANTA — It's a place where lawyers, police officers, academics, construction workers, journalists, actors and others have found a place to put aside their differences and break bread together in comfortable surroundings since 1956.

Manuel's Tavern, the legendary Atlanta eatery on Highland Avenue, is in danger of closing by year's end, according to owner Brian Maloof, son of the restaurant's namesake.

The restaurant is a longtime haunt of political folk in and around Atlanta -- candidates, elected officials and fans alike. It's been called "Jimmy Carter's favorite bar" by a number of individuals. 

11Alive's Jeff Hullinger referred to it as one of Atlanta's most famous gathering spots. 

When Jeff mentioned an online post by business writer Maria Saporta detailing the financial problems facing Manuel's, a who's who of past Atlanta media and politics posted memories of days gone by at the famed eatery.

The pandemic has hit the well-known watering hole hard. While the bar is open, social distancing has left only a few tables available inside and some table service outside, which has been difficult to maintain with the colder weather of recent days.

“On Monday, I sent a company wide email, letting our staff know how dire our situation was and that I just didn’t have any more tricks up my sleeve," owner Brian Maloof said.

Three days later, a GoFundMe campaign was started.

Angelo Fuster, the press secretary for the late Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson, started the GoFundMe page, anticipating a broad turnout from friends of the tavern.

"Our $75,000 funding goal was based on Brian Maloof’s assessment of the minimum amount of money that Manuel’s needed to pay for 2021 liquor licenses and insurances plus a couple of months of food supplies and employee payrolls," he said. 

The GoFundMe page met its original goal and his brought in over $100,000 in less than 24 hours.

“I made a donation and told other people about and posted about it," explained Marc Gowan. He's being going to Manuel's since 1977, when he moved to Atlanta .

He teaches karate at a nearby dojo, Cuong Nhu.

During a normal December, Manuel's would be hosting Christmas parties, which would bring in far more than the money that the GoFundMe has raised so far. 

"Everything suggests that the affectionate support for Manuel’s evidenced by your generous donations is continuing, and since we want to provide Manuel’s as much help as possible for as long as possible, we will leave open the GoFundMe account," Fuster said.

Gowan said he never wants to see the place go away.

"I got pictures with me and my daughter as an infant at Manuel's. I have pictures of my daughter with her daughter at Manuel's," he said, calling it a family thing. 

The owner said people are coming out to support the business. Thursday, some even dropped off envelopes with cash and checks.

So far, the money will help the iconic restaurant stay open for a few more months.

One of the bartenders told 11Alive they had to stop taking to-go orders at one point Thursday night because the kitchen was flooded with orders.

Maloof was touched by all of the support.

"It’s brought me to tears several times when I think about it and it’s just heartwarming," Maloof said.