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It's a Wednesday night, and I'm standing in a strip mall parking lot in Springfield, bathed in the neon glow of flickering signs: "Lunch," "Dinner," "Homemade breakfast," they say. Welcome to Moe's Peyton Place.
Inside at the end of the bar, I find owner Mohammed Traish, known as Moe to his friends and family — and virtually everyone in this smoke-filled room.
"It used to be a very tough place when I took it over," says Moe. "Fighting, knifings, shootings."
That was 42 years ago. At the time, Moe had a regular customer who worked for the Drug Enforcement Administration. Together, the two men hatched a plan to turn the bar into a hangout for federal workers. Virtually overnight the shady element fled the building and Moe was left with a clientele consisting mostly of law enforcement and intelligence employees.
"These guys, I developed and used words for them," explains Moe." Instead of saying this guy works for this agency, I'd say 'He works for NTW.'"
"National Tire Warehouse," Moe reveals. "That's a dead giveaway. When they say 'NTW' I know what they are."
Now, the crowds are much more diverse.
"Business people," he says. "I've got a lot of business people. Doctors, lawyers, I've got a lot of bikers."
I ask Moe what he thinks about the stereotype of the rough and tumble biker, and he cuts me off mid-sentence. "Bikers used to be tough a long time ago," says Traish. "The bikers these days — they're sweethearts. I'd say 95 percent of the people in Springfield are sweethearts. Beautiful people."
Moe personally knows most of those beautiful people — regulars like Rose and Willie Wilcox. The Wilcoxes have been coming to Moe's Peyton Place for over three decades.
What keeps them coming back?
"The family atmosphere," says Rose. "Absolutely. This is a bar that I can come in by myself. There's not another bar that I would ever walk into any time of day or night by myself. Very comfortable. Very safe."
"I grab the remote control and put the basketball game on that I want on," he says Willie. "Moe says 'Go for it man. Watch what you want to watch.' It's like being in my living room but sometimes Mina waits on me."
"He doesn't get that at home," chuckles Rose.
Mina is Mina Abdelloui — the bar's manager.
"Most of them call me mama," explains Mina. "I treat them like my kids and I love them."
The customers love Moe and Mina back.
"I had a bad operation 3 and a half years ago," recalls Moe. "Everybody in Springfield was at Fairfax Hospital in my room."
Although Moe was admittedly surprised by the outpouring of support, what came next was shocking.
"When I was in the hospital most of the bikers came in here and emptied the trash can, filled beer, helped in the kitchen, helped sweep the floor."
But that's what family does when someone gets sick. They help out. And the bar's family is big and inclusive.
"It's just a complete cornucopia of people who come to this place," says bar regular Willie Wilcox. "Nobody cares who you are or what you do. It's all about the bar, having a good time, and meeting new friends."
Moe couldn't agree more.
"I'm born and raised in Jerusalem, but I'm a Palestinian," says Traish. "The lady who was sitting next to me yesterday she was born in Alexandria and immigrated to Israel. She comes to this country twice a year to visit. We talk. We have a lot of fun. She's Jewish, I'm Palestinian and we get along very good."
Moe's point is well taken. This is a place where people can put aside any sort of preconceived notions or differences and get along.
"Everyone gets along very good with each other," says Moe. "Everybody."
"Wig Wise" by Duke Ellington from Money Jungle
DC Dives: Moe's Peyton Place