Changes at Spare Key

Popular bartender 'phases out' involvement in Midtown cocktail lounge

Popular bartender 'phases out' involvement in Midtown cocktail lounge

Chris Frankel Spare Key
Chris Frankel and his beloved Red Bull at the 2016 CultureMap Tastemaker Awards. Photo by Eric Sandler

Change has come to one of Midtown’s most well-regarded cocktail bars. Bartender Chris Frankel has stepped down from his day to day management role at Spare Key.

“Spare Key has always been in a unique situation in that we've simultaneously operated as our own concept and as an extension of the restaurant downstairs from us,” Frankel writes in response to CultureMap’s request for comment on his situation. “When Cook & Collins closed and became Stoked Tacos & Tequila, it made sense to evaluate things upstairs as well.  After some thought, I decided to phase out my involvement at Spare Key to focus on other projects and interests, particularly international travel, which always has been a big theme of the bar.”

Both Frankel and Spare Key earned CultureMap Tastemaker Award nominations for the niche it carved as an intimate cocktail lounge in the middle of Midtown's party scene. The unique 50 states menu drew upon Frankel's passion for traveling and demonstrated America's diverse taste in cocktails. 

In April, the UFO Hospitality Group opened Stoked Tacos & Tequila in the former Cook & Collins space. As part of that transition, it redecorated Spare Key, which occupies the space above Stoked. Adam Puskorius, the chef-owner of UFO Hospitality, affirms that Spare Key will remain distinct from Stoked by maintaining its current decor and ‘80s-oriented playlist.

Once Frankel informed Puskorius of his desire to travel more, they came to a mutual decision to bring in someone else to handle managerial tasks like training and ordering. Although Frankel will still appear behind the bar as his schedule permits, Stoked bartenders like Chris Schmit will start working there, too.

“It’s a really cool spot. Once people get up there they have a blast. It’s just getting them up there,” Puskorius explains. Later adding, “We want to drive business, just keep it moving forward. Chris did a great job with it. We just want to throw some love at it.”

With Frankel’s departure, the bar’s inventory of obscure liquors — another manifestation of the bartender's travels — will shrink and new cocktails will be designed to appeal to the Midtown crowd. “We’ll do a couple tiki cocktail that are shared drinks for groups,” Puskorius says.

“I wish him the best,” Puskorius adds. “We’ve all done things the right way. I think the relationship will continue to grow.”