Manuel’s Tavern, the next 60 years

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Manuel’s Tavern means a lot to me. I’ve been hosting Team Trivia there since 1992; I met my wife there and sustained many friendships over a burger and root beer. (I also watched Game 7 of the 1991 World Series there, and if lead-footed rally-killer Sid Bream hadn’t hit into a double play, perhaps I would have been able to celebrate a victory there four years before the Braves finally won. Let’s not blame Lonnie — yeah, he could have scored, but he was also on third base with nobody out.)

The bar closed at the end of December for an overdue renovation, and I’ve been checking in to see how things are coming. Thursday morning, Brian Maloof was kind enough to show me around the venerable watering hole, which is in month three of what appears to be a six-month project. (Construction is supposed to be done in late July.)

The first thing as I walked around the stripped-down building was its sheer age. Manuel’s may date back to 1956, but the building was constructed about 50 years before that — and now that the renovation has peeled back some old layers it’s amazing that the structure held up as well as it did.

Materials were sometimes hard to come by when it was built, so workers did things like use wood to connect steel beams, which had worn away in the ensuing years. The electrics were far from modern. Even Atlanta’s trees did some damage: Brian said that when pipes were pulled up from the floor, only the top portion came up: the lower half was entangled in tree roots.

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Other details speak to the tavern’s long history — and prehistory. That stone on the facade? Allegedly from Stone Mountain. The walls of the center area, where the restrooms and kitchen were located, are lined with ancient wallpaper that dates to an old beauty shop.

And that old phone booth in the rear entryway? It’s gone — Brian’s pondering what to do with it — but left behind are phone numbers dating back to the letter exchange days: JA5-6338.

Though partisans, like me, wonder how the atmosphere will change, some things can only be for the better. The bathrooms are being updated, including the addition of a unisex facility with a baby changing table. (Yes, in Manuel’s.) The rooms will have speedy wi-fi and the A/V will be adjustable by staff with the touch of an app. I’ll even be able to put the trivia questions on the TVs — though I’ll have to figure out how do that first.

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The chickens, incidentally, are fine, just temporarily relocated. I thank them for the eggs.

Update, 7:38 p.m. Sunday: And a belated thanks to Joe Ward for the fine food!

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