Brian Maloof is as excited as an expectant father.
And no wonder: his famed Atlanta bar, Manuel’s Tavern, is beginning the final month of the renovations that began in January.
Brian gave me a tour of the surroundings Thursday morning, about two months after I last came by. Though the furnishings have yet to be reinstalled — including barstools, booths, televisions, that portrait of JFK and, well, the beer taps — the watering hole is rounding into shape.
Two months ago, the floor had been ripped up in what I still call the “Trivia Room,” though it will be the main dining room in the renovated Manuel’s. Now cement has been poured and smoothed, drywall has been put up (to separate the room from what used to be the North Avenue room, which will now be a retail space) and the front, with an expansive view of North Highland Avenue, awaits a large window to be installed. (Regulars will recall that the only windows there in the old Manuel’s were small, high and dim.)
There’s a new space behind the bar that will allow for easy access to bottled drinks, and expect a lot more draft beer, too. The old main dining room — which is where I’ll be doing Team Trivia on Sunday nights — feels less cramped, and I think will stay that way even when the tables are brought back in.
The place has been rewired and replumbed, too.
Construction, which has been on time, is scheduled to end around July 22 or 23. Assuming all goes well with post-construction inspections and paperwork, Brian expects to have a grand (re-)opening two weeks later, on August 6: the 60th anniversary of the Tavern.
You may be wondering: But does it still feel like Manuel’s?
In short: Absolutely.
It’s not complete yet, of course, and if you believe the soul of the grand old place lies in nicotine-infused grime, drippy bathroom sinks and overloaded electrical sockets, you’ll be disappointed. But if you don’t mind a few mod cons (powerful wifi, a baby-changing table in one bathroom, ADA-compliant ramps) you’ll notice that Manuel’s is, well, Manuel’s: “the city’s last real neighborhood bar,” in the words of an Esquire column that named the place one of the best bars in America.
Brian’s got one up on most expectant fathers — from early January to early August, the rebirth of Manuel’s will have taken only slightly less than seven months. But to Manuel’s fans, that’s long enough.
Get your orders ready. I’ll have a J.J.’s.