Let’s go back to the good old days, when time seemed to move at a slower pace, an era when there were ample reasons to celebrate life. Let’s delve into the history and stories of The Library at Cinnamon Lakeside Colombo and find out more!
This story charts back 30 years ago, to 1986, when the Cinnamon Lakeside Colombo as we know it today, went by ‘Ramada Renaissance’. Back then, there were hardly any large hotel chains in Sri Lanka, with The Ramada being one of the few situated in Colombo. Tucked away within this glamorous, modern structure, was The Library, a concept referred to as the Bibliothek. The Library was an exclusive, members-only bar and club that was home to some of Colombo’s most elite patrons.
The Library’s members were accomplished individuals in their own right, favoring the likes of professionals, artists and intellectuals. Membership at this private club was wielded with much pride and pomp of fashion. The club was run under the guidance of Felix Nypels, the General Manager of the hotel at the time, who made sure that the club was also modeled after his exacting standards.
The Library was a lively, swinging spot, where regular members would meet to let loose and enjoy the finer things in life. As the name suggests, The Library’s walls were adorned with leather covered books; where rare classics and popular novels were freely available. Guests were invited to kick-back and tuck into their favorite manuscripts, whilst sipping on some finely aged brandy.
Yes, no request was too obscure and unobtainable! Its patrons could request for custom dishes, private dining and sweet surprises served in one of the dimly lit nooks of The Library. As its policy was a purely members-only lounge, members could enjoy complete privacy in this club. The quiet and lavish ambiance, only added to the idea that one was dining in a private, speak-easy style bar!
Harpo Gooneratne, one of Colombo’s most highly regarded entertainment professionals was the Entertainment Manager of this very institution. He recalls how he began his journey here, starting as a DJ, introducing flashing lights onto the dance floor, a completely new phenomenon for Colombo’s party goers at the time! Once dusk approached, the flickering candles and light clangs of cutlery and crockery, would give way to some of the time’s most popular tunes! Come nighttime, The Library would come alive to a thriving discotheque. Initially the entertainment was managed by Wikram Singh, from London Town Discotheques, who brought down many of the world’s most sought-after celebrities and musicians such as Richard Clyderman, Three Degrees, Trini Lopez, Bollywood stars amongst a host of other top performers of international repute. It’s clear the very best of the island’s entertainment was hosted at The Library!
However, whilst The Library had garnered a reputation for throwing gala parties in the evening, its membership was also fond of the quiet and reclusive ambiance during the day. One of the first members of the club, Mr. Sathish Abeywickrama, reminisces on how homely The Library always felt, the bar was designed by architect Navin Gooneratne, who made sure to design the space with the client’s comfort at the forefront. As Sathish and his family were staunch patrons of the Cinnamon Lakeside Colombo, with all celebrations, weddings and special dinners taking place here, The Library was almost a second home for him. In particular, he notes how he was on a stag party at The Library, when a curfew was called, and he and his fellow partygoers were resigned to stay here until the curfew was called off!
A very few prestigious clubs still exist today. Whilst many have closed or fallen into disrepute, The Library still raves, tucked away in a quiet corner of the Cinnamon Lakeside Colombo. It’s a place where time seems to have stood still. When walking through this space, you are able to be transported back to the good old days. A time when the biggest business deals were done in the privacy of this club, when a casual dinner date meant getting dressed up in your finest garb and service was always par excellence. Nilantha, The Library’s manager, is able to keep its legacy alive, by imparting all the knowledge that was imbibed into him, back when he was a young lad and joined in 1989.
In a time when we all seem to be nostalgic about the better days, it seems fitting to immerse ourselves in the past. To flick through the aged, slightly yellowing pages of your favorite book, whilst enjoying a specialty cocktail in privacy, is an offer no one can resist!
The Library is truly a place where history, privacy and exclusivity collide.