Behind Bill Clinton’s impromptu visit to Manuel’s Tavern

President Bill Clinton says hello to Megan Bartlett and her 3-month-old daughter Hannah Rice, Decatur, as he works the crowd at historic Manuel's Tavern on Wednesday, August 24, 2016, during a stop in Atlanta. Curtis Compton /ccompton@ajc.com

    President Bill Clinton says hello to Megan Bartlett and her 3-month-old daughter Hannah Rice, Decatur, as he works the crowd at historic Manuel’s Tavern on Wednesday, August 24, 2016, during a stop in Atlanta. Curtis Compton /ccompton@ajc.com

The price was $10,000 a pop for a picture with former President Bill Clinton at a swanky fundraiser in Atlanta on Wednesday evening. But a few hours earlier, for a few dozen diners at Manuel’s Tavern, the selfie was free.

Before he mounted a defense of the Clinton Foundation, the Democrat spent more than 30 minutes at the iconic (and newly-renovated) Atlanta eatery/drinkery, gabbing with just about everyone in the building, from gadflies at the bar to kitchen staff in the back.

Rumors swirled throughout the day that he was headed to Manuel’s, fanned partly by an email from a tavern regular who promised a “special guest” would arrive that afternoon.

Manuel’s, founded by former DeKalb CEO Manuel Maloof, has long been a must-stop for visiting Democrats. Jimmy Carter announced his governor’s bid at Manuel’s in 1970 and remains a regular customer. And both Clinton and Vice President Al Gore trekked to the tavern in the 1990s.

Among the Democrats we spotted awaiting Clinton’s return Wednesday was former state Rep. Doug Teper, Atlanta Board of Education member Matt Westmoreland and strategists Seth Cansler Clark and Stefan Turkheimer.

Oh, and there was Megan Bartlett and her husband Arthur Rice. The couple met while working at Manuel’s and were conveniently seated near the entrance, with their newborn daughter Hannah in hand. It was like catnip for the former president, who made a beeline to the young family.

“You just met a president,” Bartlett told the infant after Clinton moseyed to the next table.


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