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The Euclid Avenue Yacht Club is all about kitschy contradictions. Nowhere near a port or any body of water, the nautically-themed dive serves upscale pub food in an environment that former owner Don “Hippie” Hinamon affectionately characterizes as “Cheers on LSD.” The drinks are bigger and stronger than they have to be, the bathrooms are impeccably clean, the lights are dim and there is never a cover charge for the rotating door of local live musicians featured there. In its 34 years of operation, Hip told What Now Atlanta, the little neighborhood tavern hasn’t taken much seriously—but finding the right successor to maintain the delicate ecosystem of the beloved bar was paramount.
“Honestly, one of my big concerns is keeping it to what it’s always been so their neighbors will still enjoy the place and the neighborhood will have what they’ve liked for so long,” said new owner Manny Maloof. “We’re trying to keep it authentic to what it’s always been.”
Before the hole in the wall at 1136 Euclid Ave NE can reopen after its long, COVID-imposed closure, Maloof said he is in “clean up mode.” Larger grease traps in the kitchen and behind the bar, new ADA-compliant bathrooms and a white paint job on the currently-black ceiling above the food preparation area to facilitate easy cleaning are needed to bring the bar to health department compliance. Ideally, Maloof said, customers can return for their booze, Yacht tots and Brunswick stew in April.
A large 10-top table is being added to the space to accommodate large groups post-COVID, a sorely-needed amenity in the often-crowded space, according to Yelp! reviewers. The joint’s lone dartboard will be joined by two or three more, to the chagrin of their enduring dart league. According to a building permit for the site registered with the City of Atlanta, the repairs are estimated to cost a collective $200,000.
“It was this gift from God—he was the perfect person,” said Hip. “I checked him out, talked to some people he had worked with, and I had worked with his dad. He comes from a family that knows what they’re doing as far as a tavern, a bar, a pub, a restaurant. I felt so good about that because it was like he came along and he’s just right—he loves the Yacht Club and he’s not going to change anything any more than he has to.”
Things came full circle with a simplicity typical for the Yacht Club microcosm. When Hip bought the future site of the establishment in 1987, then a jewelry store, he was working at Manuel’s Tavern around the corner with Maloof’s late father. Even before its walls bore witness to three decades of antics and memories, the Yacht Club’s allure was there, waiting.
“It had been empty for a couple of years—the owner went to prison. I just walked in there and already it had this mystique and was a little bit edgy,” recalled Hip. “I wanted to be in Little Five Points. I had been working at Manuel’s Tavern around the corner there so it was part of my territory anyway…There is a magic and love [here] and it has been unrelenting ever since a year before it opened…I know so many bars may think that and I’m sure every neighborhood tavern has a little bit of that. But this place… there were magical things that happened all the time, bizarre things. Good and bad.”
Along with Michelle Janko, who retired eight years prior, and Don Sweet, who died tragically in a 1991 motorcycle accident, Hip brought forth the now-iconic hangout. Years later, in the early 2000s, Maloof was a regular at the Yacht Club when he worked at his father’s restaurant. Now, after becoming a restauranteur himself and opening Manny’s in Grant Park two years ago, Maloof is excited to get behind the storied Yacht Club bar.
“I had to give up my shift [bartending at Manny’s] so I could get this place done, I’ve been doing it pretty much my whole life,” said Maloof. “I think it’s fast-paced, a bunch of different interactions with people. It’s fun, it keeps you on your toes—it keeps you in tune with the place.”
Hip is assured that Maloof knows “what it’s supposed to feel like” at the Yacht Club, a crucial qualifier for any steward of the community mainstay. Over the years, he said, the neighborhoods around Little Five Points have gentrified but, despite a slight shift in the bar’s clientele, both Little Five Points and the Euclid Yacht Club have “stayed weird,”—he said it is imperative to foster that weirdness.
“He’s the one. He’s just the guy,” gushed Hip. “He was born and raised in bars, and there’s so much history, generations leading up to him. He knows what it’s supposed to feel like. He really, really gets it. I’ve seen, over at his place in Grant Park, how it is over there and how the people he works with are. He’s got that appreciation… he and I shared some stories and I can tell him some really strange things that happened and his reaction is amusement and entertainment. He’s the one that can keep that going. He has the soul.”
You can’t keep a man from his watering hole. Hip said he will watch the transition from a bar stool, now “as a retired guy” joining the ranks of the bar’s old guard of regulars in their affectionately nicknamed “bullsh-t corner,” chewing the cud and surveilling the vibe.