For nearly 50 years, Robert Maloof was a fixture at Manuel’s Tavern, the bar he ran with older brother and well-known DeKalb County politician Manuel Maloof.
What started out as a popular neighborhood watering hole was expanded to three locations by Robert Maloof, said his nephew and Tavern owner, Brian Maloof. It was his uncle’s charm and good nature that encouraged scores of patrons to return again and again.
In a touching Facebook tribute, Brian Maloof wrote that, while the brothers didn’t often concur on business decisions, “the one thing they always agreed on was to have a place of comfort and rest for the customers, a smoky sanctuary of relief, a living room of peace.”
He said their “brotherly love and bickering” was a hallmark of the tavern and helped shape its character. Manuel died in 2004.
Maloof said his uncle was “the caring, softer side of Manuel’s tavern,” and “the joy” of the business and the family. He signed the tribute, “Brian Maloof, owner of Manuel and Robert’s Tavern,” a nod to his uncle’s dedication and contribution to the 57-year-old family business.
“There really wouldn’t be a Manuel’s Tavern without Robert,” Maloof said in a phone interview. “He ran the day-to-day operation while Manuel, my dad, ran his political career. I just found out not everybody knows that.”
Robert Michael Maloof, of Young Harris, died Friday in Seacrest Beach, Fla., from complications of sepsis, while vacationing with his family. He was 76.
A memorial service is planned for 2 p.m. Monday at Cathedral of Christ the King, Atlanta. A second service is scheduled for noon Aug. 2, at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church, Hayesville, N.C. Kent-Forest Lawn Funeral Home, Panama City , Fla., was in charge of cremation arrangements.
An Atlanta native of Lebanese heritage, Maloof graduated from Marist High School in 1956. He had plans to attend college in Chattanooga to play football. An injury kept him from those plans, and he enrolled at Georgia State and took night classes instead, said his son, Steve Maloof, of Atlanta.
Robert Maloof started working at Manuel’s in 1957, and stayed on the day shift so he could attend classes at night. When his brother needed help at night, their father encouraged Maloof to drop out of school to take on the evening hours at the tavern. In 1960, their father died, and Robert Maloof took a second job to help support his mother while still working at the bar.
Robert seemed to have a knack for the restaurant business. He was a people person who wouldn’t think twice about chatting up a customer to make sure everything was OK.
Mike Klank, former Manuel’s employee and current proprietor of Taqueria del Sol, said Maloof taught him invaluable lessons about the restaurant business.
“He recognized the importance that your bar should be open to everybody and that you needed everybody to make it work,” Klank said. “You needed the politicians, the winos, the CEOs, everybody. And it was Robert’s personality that made a lot of that work.”
Even though Maloof retired in 2006, his handiwork is still evident. Patrons who enjoy mixed drinks and patio seating have Maloof to thank.
“The deck was more or less my idea,” he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 1986. “I used to ride around other places with decks and see my customers. I thought I’d put a deck on and give ‘em a choice.”
Brian Maloof said he will be forever grateful to his uncle for the direction in which he took the business while it was under his control.
“Some of the tavern’s greatest growth took place when Robert was at the helm full-time,” he said. “That will never be forgotten.”
In addition to his son Steve, Maloof is survived by his wife of 48 years, Carol Murray Maloof of Young Harris; eldest son, Jeffrey “Jeff” Maloof of Marietta; sisters, Margaret Mackool of Atlanta, and Beverly Hiegel of Plano, Texas; and four grandchildren.
Enjoy expanded coverage of college football for UGa, Tech and the SEC, with our SEC Insider, covering all Southeastern Conference matchups and articles by AJC staff and regional newspapers that cover the SEC.