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The Rathskeller in Olten, Switzerland

Ratskeller (German: "council's cellar", pl. Ratskeller, 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 use the term.

The word had been used in English since the mid-19th century, with at least one New York restaurant calling itself a rathskeller in the 19th century.[1]

Notable Ratskeller[edit]


The Bremen Ratskeller, c. 1900

The Bremen Ratskeller, erected in 1405, has one of the oldest wine cellars in Germany and was a center of the wine trade in Bremen.

The Ratskeller [de] in Lübeck is one of the oldest Ratskeller in northern Germany, with parts dating to the Romanesque era. The earliest documented use for wine storage dates to the year 1220.

North America[edit]

American establishments tend to spell the word as Rathskeller to avoid similarity with the word rat.

The former Das Deutsche Haus in Indianapolis, today known as the Athenaeum

Das Deutsche Haus Ratskeller restaurant in Indianapolis received historic landmark status. Now called the Athenaeum, it has served Bavarian fare since 1894.[2]

The Rathskeller in Boston was a famous rock and roll club from 1974 to 1997, a locus of Boston alternative rock, hosting local bands such as The Cars and the Pixies as well as many other bands such as The Police and Metallica before they achieved breakthrough fame.

The Minnesota State Capitol, completed in 1905, contains a Rathskeller that was recently renovated and restored in 2017. The Rathskeller contains 29 painted mottoes in German and was home to a full-service restaurant when it opened in 1905. Currently, the Rathskeller is home to a cafe serving legislators and the public.[3]

Campus dining[edit]

Many universities and public institutions in the United States have pubs or student center dining facilities located in repurposed basements. To market these nontraditional eating locations to students and patrons, many of these are termed "Ratskeller" or some variation thereupon, including:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Menu of "Haan's Ladies' and Gentlemen's Restaurant, Cafe and Rathskeller" dated December 22, 1899.
  2. ^ History of the Indianapolis Rathskeller
  3. ^ "State Capitol Rathskeller". MNHS. Retrieved 17 August 2018.
  4. ^ http://bcm.bc.edu/issues/fall_2006/linden_lane/changes-at-the-rat.html
  5. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20060910205856/https://lscdolby.sc.colostate.edu/dining/ramskeller.asp
  6. ^ http://www.chapelhillmemories.com/cat/8/4
  7. ^ https://union.wisc.edu/dine/find-food-and-drink/der-rathskeller/
  8. ^ https://www.oberlin.edu/rathskeller

External links[edit]