When Julian Cox left for Chicago, no one knew what would become of his cocktail programs at Sprout restaurants, most of all the ambitious Fiscal Agent in Studio City. Rumors circulated that his departure spelled certain doom for the seven-month-old bar—who could possibly fill his big, liquor-soaked shoes?
While the masses were lost in hysteria, Sprout was busy adapting. Now there isn’t just one face representing the company’s bar programs, but many faces. Julian’s right-hand barman, Nick Meyer, stepped in to replace him as Sprout’s director of beverage operations, Hilary Chadwick was promoted from Petty Cash’s bar manager to the group’s assistant beverage director, while Chris Amirault (formerly of Harlowe, Clifton’s Cafeteria, The Corner Door) nabbed the role of Fiscal’s bar program director.
And the first order of business? Earlier this month, Fiscal debuted its new cocktail menu—the first major menu change for Sprout since Cox’s departure—and launched a hearts-and-minds campaign to try to win local support.
The team hit the neighborhood, introducing themselves to locals on Ventura Boulevard. “When we were meeting the neighbors, a lot of them had heard of it but didn’t really know where it was,” says Chadwick. “So we said, ‘It’s about a three-minute walk that way.’ We really just wanted to say, ‘This is a really cool place for you to hang out after work, before work…’ It’s nice to have something like this on this side of the hill.”
With a focus more on attracting neighborhoodies, Fiscal is now not so much about being the world-class destination bar that Cox had initially envisioned it to be. “In terms of Julian’s vision for this spot in particular there were so many different priorities that I had to juggle when I took over him and this being the largest,” explains Meyers.
“We really wanted to keep the heart and spirit of what he was doing. In terms of the content and cocktails, it’s obviously still the focus and we’re really trying to innovate as much as we can. The only things that have really changed since Julian has gone is that we’re really trying to make the business model work a little bit more.”
Thanks to this new perspective, bar-goers can look forward to the following changes at Fiscal Agent, including a new happy hour and brunch!
Not so “precious” anymore. Sure, they still have the unique vintage glassware and a curated spirits list but “our clientele isn’t the people that are following around Julian,” says Amirault. “It’s the neighborhood.” So the team is more about creating a compelling experience for its guests, no reservations required. “For a couple years [in the cocktail community] it was all about the technique and about what you could do on a nerdy, scientific level,” says Meyer. “That was a big focus for us, too, but at the end of the day I think the way you create a lot of buzz about your spot is to make sure that people have fun.” Not to say they don’t still use the centrifuge, but they are making Cocoa Puff infusions, and other approachable ingredients that guests can comprehend.
No more ingredients lists on the menu. The new menu is no longer a laundry list of esoteric ingredients and the names of spirits. In keeping with a growing trend in the cocktail community, the cocktail descriptions really take the drinker into consideration by highlighting the flavors of the cocktail and an experience instead. As in the case of Fiscal’s new Get Me Bodied drink: “We can skip all the small talk and get right to the chase on this one. A genever fizz with notes of lemon, grapefruit, and tarragon. Queen Bey approved.”
Daytime hours, well, brunch hours. To make use of the upstairs space which actually looks great in the daylight, the bar debuted a new brunch with late brunch hours from 1 to 5 pm on the third Sunday of every month. Sip on $7 aperitivo cocktails, beer specials, and rose all day while enjoying breakfast specials from Barrel & Ashes downstairs, like breakfast burritos and tater tots.
Relaxed dress code…for the bartenders. Remember when Fiscal Agent just opened and the bar team was always so 007 dapper? “The idea is to be fun and accessible,” says Amirault. “I don’t ever want to go to a bar especially if I’m on a date with someone and I walk in and go ‘Damn! The bartender looks like that. I feel underdressed.’ And then all of a sudden the vibe is kind of ruined a little bit.”
Food menu is hyper-local instead of continental. Initially, the bar had its own menu to complement the world-class bar theme, featuring fancy items like trout terrine and diver scallops beautifully presented on half shells. But they found out quickly that maintaining two separate menus was difficult especially when food wasn’t the focus at Fiscal. Now hungry drinkers can simply order off the Barrel & Ashes menu to enjoy at the bar.
Happy hours! There are TWO new happy hours. Daily from 5 to 7 pm and late on Tuesdays through Thursdays from 10 pm to 12 am. There will be $9 classic cocktails like Old Fashioneds, Martinis, and Tommy’s Margaritas, as well as $4 beer and $8 wine. Food specials include $3 corn dogs, pork rinds, and hush puppies from downstairs.