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March 6, 2023

East End barber Frank’s is now a bar

The latest boozy revival of a formerly not-hospo business is Frank’s Bar – a Fringe pop-up serving mostly South Australian drinks in the old Frank’s Barber Shop on Vardon Avenue.

  • Words and pictures: Johnny von Einem
  • Above: Spe Caruana and Tom McLean

The first thing the owners of Frank’s Bar on Vardon Avenue want you to know about Frank’s Bar on Vardon Avenue is that it comes with long-time Vardon Avenue trader Frank Vaiana’s blessing.

They even offered the former tenant, who operated in the space for more than 20 years, to run a barber chair during their activation of the space, for (not-so) old time’s sake.


Frank’s Bar
16 Vardon Avenue, Adelaide 5000
Fri—Sun: 4pm ’til late

Open every weekend during Adelaide Fringe.


“His wife was, like, ‘No, no, no, no, no, he just wants to come down and support you guys’,” says co-founder of the revived Frank’s, Spe Caruana.

Spe and his business partner Tom McLean printed a run of t-shirts for the business, emblazoned across the back: ‘Approved by Frank, Frank not included’.

At least on opening night, Frank was part of the scenery.

“He came down the opening night, was there for, like, five hours,” Spe says.

“His family’s ordered a stack of the t-shirts. We’ve actually had to do another run.

“He’s popped in two or three times [since]. I think he enjoys it because he comes and shows his friends and family: ‘Oh, these boys have done this for me’. And we have, in a way, done it to pay tribute.”


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A post shared by Frank’s Bar (@franksbar_)


Frank’s Bar is pop-up in nature and in form. It’s a small space, with limited furnishings – a couple of indoor high tables, outdoor low tables with plastic chairs, and, for decoration, a collection of famous Franks printed and hung on the wall.

The venue’s offering is small, heavily curated, and almost entirely South Australian (with the exception of Better Beer, Heineken Zero and Pol Roger), with the style of service intended for maximum efficiency – for those who only have a short time before a Fringe show but want a drink to limber up in case of audience participation.

“East End Cellars and Mother Vine have done such a great job with the first-class drinks packages – your wine and your cocktails – [but] there’s not that many places here where you can grab a quick drink and then head off for a show,” Spe says.

“We have offerings for people who want to have a sit and a chat and a chinwag, but also wanted to go with something where people could grab a quick beer and then head off.”

Producers on pour include wineries Coates, Charlish & Co and Delinquente, Mismatch for beers, South Ave for seltzers, and some pre-mix cans from Twenty Third Street Distillery.

The food, too, is intended for a transitory clientele. “We just do nuts and chips and that sort of thing,” Spe says.

Spe and Tom are old high school friends. Their idea of creating a pop-up bar in the East End for Fringe pre-dates Frank’s retirement.

The duo caught up for a drink at Mother Vine in June last year and surveyed the strip, dreaming of best-case bar scenarios. This included Frank choosing to vacate his long-held tenancy. Only months later, Frank announced his retirement.

“We saw the opportunity to jump on a short-term lease, because Exchange Coffee will be taking it on after that… and we’re, like, ‘Let’s take a risk at it’,” Spe recalls. “We’ve been supported by everybody, so it’s been a lot of fun.”


Spe has a history working in cafés around Adelaide, and as a party promoter in Greece for a time, but he’s been mostly out of hospo for the last 15 years, working as a personal trainer.

Tom runs Pirie Street bar and restaurant Jack & Jill’s, and it’s his expertise that drives the beverage offering.

Spe’s role, in his telling, is personality and vibe.

“A lot of what I do in the bar is just your old school maître d’. Get people in: Hey, how ya doin’? Wanna take a seat?” he says.

“There’s so many offerings during Fringe, and you don’t want to feel like you’re getting ripped off anywhere. Sometimes you can get that when it’s too quick, but we want to make people feel comfortable they came in, happy they came in, maybe have a little story on the way out, and then get to where they’re going.”

Frank’s Bar is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday throughout Fringe, so you’ve got two more weeks to stop by. Keep up to date by following the business on Instagram.

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