GoFundMe page launched to aid Manuel’s Tavern workers

A group of longtime patrons of Atlanta’s storied Manuel’s Tavern have put together a drive to raise money for the staff of the tavern who will be displaced when it closes temporarily for renovations in the coming weeks.

John Duke, a Poncey-Highland resident, and other regulars of the pub started a GoFundMe page to raise money for the Manuel’s staffers. The group has a goal of raising $60,000, and in its first 24 hours the drive has raised more than $2,600.

Manuel’s Tavern – the Poncey-Highland bar and decades-old haunt for politicos, reporters and regular in-towners – plans to close for extensive renovations that will coincide with construction of a large mixed-use development. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Manuel’s plans to close Dec. 27 and later reopen after extensive renovations that will coincide with start of a surrounding mixed-use development.

“I’m just a customer, a regular. I go there all the time,” Duke said. “The long-tenured staff have just become good friends of mine.”

Angelo Fuster, a representative for Manuel’s owner Brian Maloof, called the fund-raising effort “a wonderful initiative by loyal Manuel’s customers, and I am sure much appreciated by everyone.”

Manuel’s has about 60 employees.

Fuster said Maloof, the son of the bar’s namesake and former DeKalb political heavyweight Manuel Maloof, is working with owners of other restaurants and clubs to try to find temporary employment opportunities during the renovation.

The renovation is expected to take about three to four months, Fuster said.

“Our hope is that those that (take other jobs) come back,” he said.

Developer Green Street Properties, which is buying the tavern’s land and building (but not the restaurant), has said it plans to refurbish the building and build a mixed-use project on the adjacent parking lots.

Manuel’s would then reopen as a tenant in its renewed building.

Manuel’s, opened in 1956, has long been favored watering hole not only for nearby residents, but for cops, journalists and state and local politicians — especially Democrats. President Barack Obama dropped by during a stop in Atlanta last March.

Duke, who has frequented the bar since 2005 and walks there from his Poncey-Highland home, said he other regulars put the idea together and plan to keep the fundraiser going into January. GoFundMe will collect and distribute the money.

“The staff of the tavern is its lifeblood, and this fund is for them,” the page said. “They will still need to pay the bills while the bar is closed, so in the spirit of the holidays, donate what you can to help them out!”

The goal, the page said, “is to raise $1,000 for each employee — enough money to help them through about a month’s worth of bills.”

President Barack Obama waves to the crowd as he leaves Manuel’s Tavern on Tuesday, March 10, 2015, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com