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The rathskeller in Olten, Switzerland

Ratskeller (German: "council's cellar", historically Rathskeller) is a name in German-speaking countries for a bar or restaurant located in the basement of a city hall (Rathaus) or nearby. Many taverns, nightclubs, bars, and similar establishments throughout the world take the name Ratskeller.[1]

The word had been used in English since the mid-19th century.[1]

At least one New York restaurant called itself a "rathskeller" in the 19th century.[2]

Notable Rathskellers in North America[edit]

The Dakota Inn Rathskeller was opened in Detroit on August 1, 1933, by Karl Kurz, and is owned and operated by the Kurz family to this day, and is the city's only authentic German beer garden, complete with oompah bands and polka contests.

The Boston, Massachusetts, Rathskeller (nicknamed "The Rat") was a Kenmore Square live music venue that opened in 1974. It is notable for being one of Greater Boston's premier music venues for three decades and the starting point for the WBCN Rock & Roll Rumble.[1]

The Ram's Head Rathskeller in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, was opened in 1948 by an Austrian Jew by the last name of Danziger, who came to Chapel Hill as a refugee from the Holocaust. "The Rat" was the first restaurant in the area to employ an entirely African American staff. Long a popular spot with students and alumni, the restaurant, which extends over a catacomb-like basement with many different rooms, was filled with UNC memorabilia and history. "The Rat" was one of the oldest continuously operating businesses in Chapel Hill, but was closed down in 2008 due to nonpayment of taxes. Its decor and memorabilia were auctioned off, leaving just the frame of the structure. Plans were made to reopen the restaurant under new management in early 2011, but dealing with structural issues, among other things, has delayed the project.

Read House in New Castle, Delaware, served as a speakeasy during Prohibition, using the underground location to hide the illegal activity.[3]

The Athenaeum Building in Indianapolis

Das Deutsche Haus Ratskeller restaurant in Indianapolis, Indiana, received historic landmark status. Now called Athenaeum, it has served Bavarian fare since 1894.

The Aztec Brewing Company in San Diego, California, included a Ratskeller as the tasting room at the brewery. Murals on the wall depicted various scenes of Aztecs painted by renowned Spanish artist Jose Moya del Piño. When the city tore down the structure, the murals were preserved for future use.

James Lawrence Kernan operated an upscale Ratskeller in the basement of the Maryland Theater in Baltimore, Maryland.

The Seelbach Hilton in Louisville, Kentucky, has a Ratskeller decorated with rare Rookwood Pottery. Today, the Seelbach Ratskeller remains the only surviving ensemble of its kind.[4]

Another notable Ratskeller is located on the campus of St. Bonaventure University. It was founded in 1963.

The Ratskeller in Southbury, Connecticut is a popular area restaurant known for its seafood specials and is a popular Friday night hot spot. It was awarded the title "Best Wings In Town" by the Brew Crew Social Club.

The Rathskeller Coffee Haus and Pub in Franklin, North Carolina, offers an eclectic assortment of sandwiches, coffees, desserts, beers, wines, and hard ciders. Located in the basement of one of the town's oldest buildings, the Rathskeller is a popular live music and foosball venue. [5]

Der Rathskeller in the Memorial Union (Wisconsin) is a German-style beer hall. It holds many social events such as an open microphone event, and free live music is often offered outdoors, weather permitting. It was the first union to serve beer at a public university.[6]

The Ratskeller at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, also nicknamed "The Rat", was a campus pub primarily for science students which operated from the 1940s until the 1990s. It was later converted into a restaurant and cafeteria named 'Bridges'.

In the basement of the State House Capitol building in Springfield, Illinois, is a cafeteria named the Rathskeller. Famous politicians, community and civil servants (diners), not to mention parolees (servers), have walked its halls and passed through the old brick archways and still the cafeteria serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as staying open late for nights when the Illinois General Assembly is in session. [7]

Popular culture[edit]

Ratskellers occasionally show up in popular culture. Child actress Adele De Garde starred in a 1918 silent movie called The Rathskeller and the Rose. In The Naked Brothers TV shows and movies (2005-2007), the father character plays the accordion at a fictional restaurant called The Hoboken Rathskeller. The 2009 film, Inglourious Basterds, features a prolonged sequence taking place in a Ratskeller in France.

Campus dining[edit]

Many universities have pubs or student center dining facilities located in repurposed basements. To market these nontraditional eating locations to students, many of these are termed "Ratskellers" including:

The Rathskeller in State College, Pennsylvania

See also[edit]


External links[edit]