Employees wait on customers at Sonder & Dram in Lewiston in this 2018 photo. The bar announced recently that it will expand upstairs to open a separate restaurant. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal file photo Andree Kehn/Sun Journal file photo

LEWISTON — The owners of Sonder & Dram bar on Ash Street plan to expand the business upstairs, opening a standalone restaurant and lounge.

Peter Flanders, who co-owns the business and Great Falls Development Group along with several partners, said the expansion has been planned for a while and will allow Sonder & Dram to effectively double its total capacity from roughly 50 to 100.

He said the necessary permits will likely be filed within the next few weeks, and the new restaurant will hopefully be open by October.

The small, speakeasy-style bar opened in June 2018 on the bottom floor of 12 Ash St. Since then, it’s flourished in downtown Lewiston and successfully navigated the pandemic.

Flanders said Monday that the restaurant and lounge will operate under a different name, with an entirely new kitchen. Other details, including a menu and design, are still in the works.

“We had always hoped that the space would become available someday,” he said, referring to the expansion plans. “We will continue to create tasty things, which has really been our focus.”


On May 4, the City Council signed off on a new liquor license for the business, which included approvals to use the Ash Street sidewalk and areas in the rear of the building for patio seating.

In an email to Mayor Mark Cayer, Flanders urged city officials to move quickly on a decision regarding the patio, and he detailed plans on the Ash Street expansion, stating he had a “very short window to make my decisions.”

Flanders said the expansion would generate an additional $1 million in annual revenue, as well as employ an additional 12 to 16 people. The bar has five full-time employees.

Paul Michaud of Auburn talks to his wife, Ashley, in November 2020 while dining outside at Sonder & Dram in Lewiston as server Melanie Roy heads to another table of patrons with menus. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal file photo Buy this Photo

A week later, the City Council discussed a proposal to permanently change its ordinance related to sidewalks, which would make it easier for restaurants to offer outdoor dining and even retail stores to set up merchandise outside.

In an email to councilors, Cayer said city officials need to “go out of our way to make things like this happen, and just as importantly, in a timely manner so that businesses are not left hanging in the wind while we figure it out.”

“I ask the council to send a clear message to businesses this evening, that we will do all we can to help them survive and hopefully expand, for not only them and the employees they hire, but for our community,” he said.


Flanders said at this point he doesn’t see any reason why the expansion would not move forward, aside from some possible delays due to the current demand for contractors.

“We’re committed at this point,” he said. “It would have to be someone else making it difficult for us, not us.”

Flanders said it’s no doubt been a difficult year for the restaurant industry, but said he’s starting to see the customers “trickling” back in. He said when Subway closed, it was during a rough period for downtown foot traffic, when many of the walk-in customers who would normally be coming in during lunches or after work were working remotely.

Throughout the pandemic, Sonder & Dram utilized outdoor patio space, and special takeout menus and to-go cocktails to adapt.

Lincoln Jeffers, director of Economic and Community Development, said the potential expansion was welcome news. Referring to Sonder & Dram’s work over the past year, he said, “My hat’s off to them, they rose to a challenge.”

Jeffers said he didn’t know when the Subway restaurant closed.

Flanders said the building’s owner, Jamey Pitman, will also be doing renovations to the front facade. A call to Pitman on Monday was not returned by early evening.

Flanders said the ownership group’s “long-term intentions” also include some type of additional space in the downtown, but he did not elaborate on details.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: