During any type of political event such as presidential debates or an election night, Manuel’s Tavern is always packed with patrons eager to watch the broadcast. Chairs, tables and booths fill up quickly as if a sporting event was about to begin. For 60 years, this Poncey-Highland watering hole has become a magnet for politicians, journalists, musicians and other notable guests, including previous presidents of the United States.
In 1956, Manuel Maloof opened Manuel’s Tavern in the former location of Harry’s Delicatessen and it quickly became popular with journalists and students. In 1964, The Atlanta Press Club formed and began meeting every month at Manuel’s. As the years went by, the walls of the tavern became filled with paintings, posters, street signs, stickers and mementos. The area behind the bar is adorned with neon beers signs and a portrait of President John F. Kennedy.
Manuel’s presidential past began when former President Jimmy Carter announced his first gubernatorial campaign at the bar in 1970. President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore made a stop at Manuel's during their 1992 campaign and in March 2015, President Barack Obama stopped by the tavern and played a game of darts. His photo was taken during the game and now hangs on the wall.
The building that houses the bar is more than 100 years old and the land that it sits on was sold in 2015. When Manuel’s closed for planned improvements in December 2015, many patrons feared the renovations would harm the character and charm that Manuel’s acquired in its 60 year of business. To preserve the history and memorabilia that covered nearly every inch of the bar, volunteers recorded each wall using high-definition cameras. The result was a map that would allow for reconstruction of the space patrons grew accustomed to.
Manuel’s Tavern reopened in August 2016, and a priest from the family’s church was present to bless the bar as more than 50 employees and customers watched. The tavern has since welcomed back former President Clinton when he visited a few short weeks after reopening, just in time for election season.