Nightlife Feature: The legacy of Manuel’s Tavern

A community connection and the sense of family runs deep at Manuel’s. In the tavern’s 57 years of business, many customers and employees have passed through its doors, and some of them became such loyal visitors that they never wanted to leave, even after they had passed on.

Miles Keenlyside | The Signal Brian Maloof now runs Manuel's Tavern
Miles Keenlyside | The Signal
Brian Maloof now runs Manuel’s Tavern

Walking through the tavern’s heavy double doors, you enter the dimly lit oak paneled bar area.  Photographs, bar mirrors, police uniforms, sports memorabilia, signed dollar bills, memorial plaques, paintings of politicians, maps, flags and other bric-a-brac cover seemingly every inch of available wall space, but it isn’t merely the meaningless wall decorations you’d find at your local corporate family friendly restaurant, this is the real McCoy. Each item tells a unique story of the lives of people, most of whom are joined by a common connection to the tavern.

The memorial plaques immortalize legendary customers who have since passed on, the photographs tell stories of raucous nights past and an urn with the ashes of Manuel himself sits over the bar.

It’s this unmistakable combination of history, family and community that seems to make up the formula for the magic of Manuel’s.


The Maloofs

After Manuel Maloof opened the tavern, he was soon joined by his brother Robert Maloof. The brothers ran the tavern together, and together turned it into the hub of the community that it is today.

Miles Keenlyside | The Signal Manual
Miles Keenlyside | The Signal
Manual Maloof’s urn rests behind the bar.

Manuel’s son Brian Maloof believes it was his father and uncles religious upbringing that helped them develop the strong sense of community around the restaurant.

“The influence of my grandfather and my uncles on this place with their Catholic upbringing is present here. You see that in the fact that I don’t know how many different funerals that we’ve paid for for people that couldn’t afford or didn’t have money to bury a loved one,” Maloof said, “[…] it’s about a level of spiritual comfort and community awareness, that’s more important to us than the checkbook.”

Brian Maloof, who has been running the tavern since the early 2000s, continues his father’s legacy of community building. The tavern prides itself on its ability to extend a second chance to people who are in the process of transferring out of the penal system. “We hire tons of prisoners,” Maloof said. “For us to extend that [second chance] to them and help them, then that’s our contribution to the rehabilitation of another human being. And if we truly believe in the process of rehabilitation and the penal system then we need to also work in it on the back end when they come out. They need to be given a chance, and I like being the place that does that.”


The cops

It’s easy to say what turned Manuel’s into a haunt for local police. Bill McClusky, the tavern’s employee of 41 years, started working full time at the tavern in 1972 and always made an effort to try and make officers feel at home in the tavern. McClusky helped turn the restaurant into the hang-out for officers of the law it is now, and even got the opportunity to help out with police investigations.

“We used to do a lot with the police,” McClusky said. “They even used me as a decoy a couple of times for prostitution and stuff. One time I had a pick-up truck and we put a box in the back of my truck. A police officer got in the back with it.”

McClusky’s hospitality and willingness to assist the police made Manuel’s into a restaurant where police officers could feel at home. A number of the uniforms are presented on the walls of officers who have since passed away. Over the years, people many developed a close relationship with the tavern, and it is not uncommon for regular customers request to have something from their estate left at the bar after they die. It seems to be a connection that goes beyond the grave.


The ghosts

According to employees, there are several of the regular customers and staff members, who have since passed on, that still stop by the tavern for a visit. Along the bar are a number of plaques, each with a name and a date. The names are in memory of old regular customers who have passed into the great unknown, and the dates signify the times they were regular customers. Brian Maloof recounted one ghostly encounter he had in the early morning at the tavern:

“There is some weirdness. I’ve had one weird experience. There was a legendary employee here. His name was Bill Bailey. […] He called me one morning and said “Brian, I don’t think I’m going to make it today, I don’t feel well. If I feel better later I’m coming in.” So I said “You take care of yourself.” I didn’t know that would be the last time I would talk to Bill— he passed away. He had a heart attack at home and died.”

One morning, while Brian Maloof was opening up the tavern, an old friend paid him a visit.

“It might have been a year later I had opened up and I was here by myself. I was walking to the bar office and I looked down and saw someone. The way he walked, immediately I thought it was Bill Bailey.”

Since the logical explanation would be that a patron from the night before was still in the building, Maloof followed the figure into the stock room.

“When I got out of my freaked out moment, I realized that the night shift had left somebody in the building. […] So I’m yelling down the hallway “Hey! I don’t know what you’re doing in here!” I went down there and nobody responded, I looked all over. Not a door was open, nothing. The only thing I could come up with was that it was Bill.”

Bailey sticking around was all right with Maloof.

“The thing that crossed my mind was that if there was going to be someone that was haunting this place, I’m so glad it was Bill. He was a wonderful presence here and I actually got comfortable after I thought about it for a moment.”