Over 400 New England Patriots fans – and a few Philadelphia Eagles die-hards – crammed inside a downtown Portland nightclub Sunday evening to watch Super Bowl LII on the venue’s massive, 600-inch digital screen.

The audience at Aura, 121 Center St., guzzled down pitchers of microbrews and snarfed up platters of bright orange chicken wings while cheering, clapping, shouting and gasping as the tension-filled contest played out before them.

Friends Brian Ross of Westbrook and Travis Geistert of Scarborough, both wearing Patriots quarterback Tom Brady jerseys, said it has become tradition for them to watch the Super Bowl at the sports bar and music venue. Formerly called Asylum, the establishment was renovated, expanded and renamed Aura in 2017, but it remains under the same ownership.

“We’ve been coming here since 2001, since the first Patriots Super Bowl, when it used to be Asylum,” Ross said. “They have food specials and drinks, but it’s more about being with other fans.”

“And we’re superstitious, too,” Geistert said, suggesting that a missed appearance at Aura could trigger some sort of disastrous butterfly effect on the game’s outcome.

Couple Sarah Hodor of Philadelphia and Dan McLaughlin of Portland had a friendly rivalry going as the game was about to start. Hodor was one of only a handful of patrons wearing Eagles jerseys and rooting for the Philadelphia team.

“Everyone’s been really friendly, and there’s been a few Eagles fans out here, too,” Hodor said. “I mean, the game hasn’t started yet. We’ll see how it’s going to go.”

McLaughlin, wearing the No. 87 jersey of Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, said the couple had a bet going in which the loser would have to wear the other’s team jersey for a day.

“(If the Patriots win) I’ll be making dinner in the Gronk shirt,” Hodor said. “And somebody else will have to wear my jersey – it’s a child’s size.”

Aura General Manager Mark Curdo said showing Patriots championship games in the bar’s auditorium, designed for live music shows, was something of an experiment.

The first Patriots game shown on the giant screen above the stage – intended for music acts to display videos, band logos and the like – was for the Jan. 13 divisional playoffs when New England hosted Tennessee, Curdo said. Attendance was good enough that the bar kept it going for the conference championship game on Jan. 21 and then the Super Bowl.

“The last two (games) we’ve been in here, and the occupancy has doubled each week,” Curdo said. “It’s just a bummer that this is the last game of the season.”

Curdo said hosting NFL championship games is a good way to attract patrons who might not otherwise know about Aura because they’re not avid fans of live music shows. No other sporting event even comes close to NFL football, and the Super Bowl in particular, for getting people excited about going to a bar to watch alongside other fans, he said.

“It’s just a thing,” Curdo said. “The Super Bowl brings everybody out.”

The bar’s owners worked to create added incentives for patrons by offering a big concert ticket giveaway at halftime, he said.

“It’s going to be a little bit of a battle (for attention) with (halftime performer) Justin Timberlake, but he’s not giving away anything for free,” Curdo said.

The nightclub’s big screen was incentive enough for Patriots fan Sandy Trufant of Windham.

“We came here because they have the big screen – there’s not many places that have that,” Trufant said. “And just the excitement from all the people here, it makes it more fun.”


CORRECTION: This story was updated at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 5, 2018, to correct the nature of the incentives offered by Aura. The bar did not organize a pool.

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