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Longtime Manuel’s Tavern patron and supporter Angelo Fuster has been spending most of his Thursday writing personalized “thank yous” to the more than 1,200 donors of his “Save Manuel’s Tavern” GoFundMe. The crowdsourcing fundraiser went live late-Wednesday and less than 17 hours later has already hit its $75,000 goal — with no sign of slowing. Fuster told What Now Atlanta (WNA) in an interview Thursday, although it’s still early in the day, he’s heading to Manuel’s Tavern for a beer to celebrate, “and I’m buying!”
“Really, it’s been one helluva positive surprise,” Fuster said reflecting on how quickly Atlantans jumped at the opportunity to support his fundraiser. “I am the manager of the GoFundMe page and I get the reports. I’ve been sending thank you notes to everyone. I’m afraid people are going to think it’s automatic but it’s me actually doing it, because it’s deserved.”
Donations have been large and small, with many that are “$10, $15, $25, $7, and that’s really encouraging,” Fuster said. “It’s a powerful feeling to know that people cared enough to help. It’s not some foundation or millionaires giving money, it’s individuals.” Fuster is hoping the donations will holdover Manuel’s Tavern while the business waits for additional federally-funded support or the “wide distribution of the vaccine.”
Fuster said he is on his way to discuss the results of the campaign with Owner Brian Maloof. “When we realized recently how dire the financial situation was, we told Brian we were going to launch this fundraiser. These are your regulars and friends who love Manuel’s. We need you to survive.”
Maloof on Wednesday told Saporta Report he was afraid he would have to close Manuel’s before the end of the year citing financial hardships brought on by the novel coronavirus pandemic. “I would imagine it would be permanent,” the youngest son of the iconic Atlanta restaurant’s namesake — the late Manuel Maloof (pictured above) — said. Maloof has not responded to several attempts by WNA for comment, but the restaurateur early-Thursday published this message to the Manuel’s Tavern Facebook page:
This is a very upsetting post for me to make.
I need to be completely honest with all of you that are Regulars, Guests, and Friends of Manuel’s.
We are in financial trouble.
For 8 months Manuel’s has taken every course of action known and attempted everything we have been advised to do to save this business.
After everything that has been cut and saved and attempted, we find ourselves still very cash short. I informed the staff of our situation two days ago. Their responses have been heartwarming, supportive, and motivating. They love Manuel’s as much as I do.
I was glad to see the staff had a great appreciation for the hard honesty of our situation. The staff deserved the truth and you do as well.
Since March Manuel’s has had an average reduction in sales of 62% per month. We have been spending cash reserves to make up the average $25,000.00 a month shortage. Currently, we have no more reserves. Without a cash injection, we will be forced to close for good.
The operational plan put in place in March was to make Manuel’s super COVID safe, cut all costs, expand the to-go business, be open only during our most profitable hours, reduce labor costs, retain employees, and get to the end of the pandemic. Along the way, we applied for and received our PPP loan. We used the PPP funds wisely and productively but they are now gone. We were counting on additional small business stimulus coming. The need for stimulus has been obvious to everyone in Congress, a new stimulus package has been on the lips of everyone in Congress but as they say “words are cheap”.
I was asked 2 months ago to inform everyone about our situation. I did not do it then as I did not want to add additional stress to everyone during an already stressful time. 2020 has not been fun. In addition to not adding stress, I was certain additional funding would be available in time. I was wrong.
My purpose in this post is simple; you should know the truth.
Angelo Fuster, one of our most loyal patrons, is spearheading an effort with other regulars to help “save Manuel’s.”
He is reaching out to the surrounding communities and other groups that have been meeting at Manuel’s for years to try to prevent the bar and restaurant from closing.
A GoFundMe page has been set up with a $75,000 goal, the estimated amount needed to pay for the liquor licenses, insurance, and cover payroll for the next couple of months.
Fuster envisions an outpouring of support reminiscent of the Christmas movie: “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
And he is not alone.