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Updated: August 28, 2023

Lewiston restaurant will build on success of sister eatery directly beneath it

Courtesy / Bon Vivant From left, General Manager Blaine Flanders, Partners Richard Roy and Jon Mercier, Head Chef and Partner Michael Gosselin and Partner Peter Flanders.

In 2018, Peter Flanders, Rick Roy and Michael Gosselin transformed a leased basement space, in Lewiston, into the bar and eatery Sonder & Dram.

Since it launched, the success of that venture inspired the recent opening of Bon Vivant, a full-service restaurant located at 133 Lisbon St., in leased space directly above Sonder & Dram.

“The goal is to create experience worthy of a bon vivant,” said Flanders.

Courtesy / Bon Vivant
Bon Vivant opened this summer at 133 Lisbon St.

"Bon vivant" is a French term meaning someone who is sociable and living the good life. 

The partnership for Bon Vivant has grown to include Jon Mercier, who is also a broker with Maine Source Homes & Realty. Gosselin is head chef as well as a partner. Blaine Flanders was brought in as general manager.

Flanders, Mercier and Roy are partners in Great Falls Development Group, a real estate management company in Auburn. 

Sonder & Dram is a speakeasy style of cocktail bar, said Peter Flanders. 

“It’s got its own tiny kitchen — although it’s the same corporation, so that allows us to share space,” he said. 

A stairwell between the two establishments allows customers to flow from one to the other. 

According to the city’s Historic Preservation Review Board, 133 Lisbon St. was built in 1895 by an Irish immigrant named John McGillicuddy, who was a contractor and grocer. It features a copper turret and brick and metal ornamentation. 

Plans for Bon Vivant started after Sonder & Dram opened but were halted in 2020. By December 2022, the partners decided to renew the project.

But expenses had gone through the roof, said Flanders.

Flanders credited the city of Lewiston — particularly Misty Parker, assistant director for the economic and community development department — for its help in finding grant and low interest loan funding through city and federal programs. It included Community Development Block Grant Program support to help buffer increased costs.

“The project increased a little over $180,000 in that 2 1/2 years,” Flanders said. 

The menu is designed to feature Maine ingredients in a classical, French-leaning cuisine, he said. 

The premises include the dining area, full kitchen and small lounge for waiting guests. At about 2,000 square feet, Bon Vivant is 30% bigger than Sonder & Dram and accommodates 49 customers.

The success of Sonder & Dram demonstrated market potential.

“There’s been much more demand for our food than we ever expected when we opened Sonder & Dram,” said Flanders. “Because of that, we started doing a series where we had private-invite dinners — people could buy tickets during the slow season and we would have 16 guest in for a full dinner service out of that tiny kitchen.”

The tickets sold out throughout the series, he said. 

“It was always our intention to do a full restaurant from a corporate standpoint,” he said.  Said Mercier, “I’ve seen this community grow in the last two years more than in the last 20 years.”

He added, “We enjoy smaller restaurants. We wanted to bring that experience here.”

The space was formerly shared sandwich and pizza shops and had a bathroom and kitchen, said Flanders. Buildout included stripping down the space to bare essentials and restoring vintage curved windows high up on one wall.

“From the outside they could always be seen but they hadn’t been seen from the inside for many years,” said Flanders. 

The building’s owner had performed restorations to the building, including uncovering pillars that had been covered over and restoring a tin ceiling in the entranceway. 

“The rest is fresh and new,” said Flanders. That includes the kitchen, which was an investment of nearly $200,000. 

Investment in the entire project was just shy of $500,000. Financing was provided in part by Norway Savings Bank.

“We believe in the community and its growth so we continue to invest in it,” said Flanders.

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