The Blue Elephant opens in downtown Lewiston with Sri Lankan flavor.

LEWISTON – In Ajantha Weerakkody’s homeland of Sri Lanka, the elephant symbolizes strength, intelligence and prosperity.

He’s hoping those values – perhaps with a slight emphasis on prosperity – translate to Park Street where he and his fiance are opening a new lounge, the Blue Elephant.

Decorated with items from southern Asia and offering a menu of Sri Lankan specialties, the lounge opened last weekend in what was once O’Sheil’s. The couple hopes to make the club a destination for people of all ages looking for a place to enjoy a drink and a night out.

“We want to make this attractive to all sorts of people,” said Weerakkody. In addition to the college-age crowd, “we’d like the 30-plus crowd – and professionals – to hang out and have a drink and be comfortable.”

The club has seating for 50 and a spacious dance floor to entice movers and shakers. Weerakkody and his fiance, Aja Stevens-Bell, expect disc jockeys will offer music ranging from hip-hop to the ’80s, with a possibility of reggae and salsa if dancing takes off. There’s a VIP section, a private room draped in silky curtains cordoned off from the main part of the lounge.

They are also bringing back Ladies Night on Wednesdays, offering well drinks for $2 and Michelob Ultra for $1.50.

The couple met in San Francisco and decided to move East to launch their business careers. Stevens-Bell had summered in Maine and always loved it, so they looked here for investment opportunities.

“We knew we wanted to settle in a larger city,” said Stevens-Bell. “It was between Augusta and Lewiston.”

They researched the development plans for both cities and were impressed by the kind of investment they saw locally.

“We saw the Great Island project, the Wal-Mart distribution project and others, and thought this must be a good place for investment,” said Weerakkody.

Besides changing the interior design of the club, the couple also invested in rehabbing the pool table, a personal priority for Weerakkody who has played pool professionally in Sri Lanka and England.

“I’d like to teach people who want to learn for free,” he said. “It’s such a great sport.”

Weerakkody is a bit of a Renaissance man. In addition to his pool playing background, he has degrees in political science and aviation. He also recently signed a modeling contract with a New York City agency.

But his focus right now is on the Blue Elephant. He’s stocked the bar with a broad range of beer, wine and liquor, hoping to appeal to every sort of customer. Mixed drinks are priced between $5 and $7; beer, from $2 to $4; and wine $4 and up.

His mom is preparing the Sri Lankan food, a combination of rice and curried chicken, lentil dishes and daal. The lounge will also offer typical American appetizers.

Security is a priority. A sign posted at the door prohibits colors, bandanas, weapons and anything else that might accompany a rough crowd. Bouncers will make sure people leaving get to their cars OK and are fit to drive.

“We want to make sure everyone has a great time, but when they leave, they don’t bother our neighbors and get home safe,” Weerakkody said.

Stevens-Bell said they hope to have things like raffles of spa packages and rentals of the VIP room (including champagne and food) to drum up business. And she’s not worried that other businesses have come and gone in that same location.

“Fifty percent of the population of Maine lives within a 30-mile radius of here,” she said. “As long as we take care of patrons and market ourselves well, we can’t go wrong.”



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