The latest on Manuel’s Tavern

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The current look of Manuel’s Tavern has some people panicked.

They see the scaffolding set up around the building at North and North Highland, surrounding the fabled bar like a cage. They notice the old North Avenue room, where Laughing Matters put on their shows, is still hollowed-out and windowless. The front doorway is blocked off; the parking lot in back is a hole in the ground.

No way, they think, is it going to be ready for August 6, the hoped-for opening day — and the 60th anniversary of the Tavern.

Calm down, says Brian Maloof. Everything’s right on schedule.

What we’re seeing are the last signs of active construction, says the Manuel’s major-domo. The scaffolding should be coming down soon. (This is being written midday Thursday; it may be down by the time you read it.) The finishing touches are being put on the electrics. The water lines are being hooked up. The place is already undergoing inspections.

Maloof is all smiles as he leads a tour of the renovations. He points out back where workers are hooking up the water lines. He once had two 30-gallon grease traps; they’re being replaced by two 1,500-gallon tanks.

“It’s extraordinary,” he says. The old grease traps had to be emptied once a week, he adds. The new ones? Once a quarter.

Free-standing convection ovens have been added to the much-enlarged kitchen, which will be air-conditioned. The freezer, once an outside appendage, is now inside. And Brian says he knows things are almost ready, because the toilets have been installed in the restrooms. (They were scheduled to be operational Thursday.)

Regulars may find those restrooms a little, uh, spotless. But don’t worry: most of the old Manuel’s hasn’t gone anywhere. The bar was recently uncovered and waxed. It awaits beer and plumbing hookups. The booths, tables and wall decorations are coming soon. Brian even found a place for the front door, which has been replaced to comply with accessibility regulations.

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Long-timers may remember an emergency exit for the Eagle’s Nest, the old upstairs space known for darts and club gatherings. The Nest was made part of the dining room, so the emergency door opening — now several feet above the floor — was superfluous. Brian wanted a window, but historical considerations meant another door had to go in its place. Solution? The old front door.

“The whole purpose behind it was just to give us a window,” Brian chuckles. Through such serendipity is history preserved.

Indeed, patrons will find the place looks comfortable and familiar. And at this point, aside from the finishing touches and inspections, about the only thing Manuel’s needs are people — including staffers. Though some of the well-known bartenders and kitchen staff are returning, some of the wait staff has moved on. So if you’re looking for a job, Manuel’s is hiring.

In the meantime, mark your calendars. Brian is still planning for a Grand Reopening on August 6.

For those who play Team Trivia, we’re hoping to resume the show at Manuel’s the next day, August 7, assuming everything is set. Otherwise, figure August 14 to give the bar more time to find its groove.

“I don’t want to disappoint anybody,” says Maloof of making sure the kitchen and staff are fully prepared. “The worst thing I can do is open up, and everybody comes in and says, ‘Yeah, it looks the same, but you know …”

The empty space at the corner of North and North Highland will remain empty for the time being — that’s for another storefront to fill. But next door, Manuel’s Tavern is right on time.

Have your orders ready.

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