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.
American establishments tend to spell the word as Rathskeller to avoid similarity with the word rat.
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 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.
Many universities and public institutions in the United States and elsewhere 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:
- Binghamton University The original SUNY rathskeller and often referred to as "The Rat".
- Boston College ("The Rat")
- Colorado State University ("The Ramskeller")
- University of North Carolina ("The Ram's Head Rathskeller", better known as "The Rat", opened in 1948 and closed in 2008)
- University of Wisconsin–Madison ("Der Rathskeller")
- Oberlin College ("The Rat" among students)
- University at Buffalo (SUNY) had a facility called The Rathskeller that served food, alcohol, and occasionally had live music. It was housed in Squire Hall, and closed for good when that building was renovated starting in 1982.
- University of California, San Diego Muir College had a facility called The Ratskeller that served food and non-alcoholic drinks. It was housed in Muir Commons, but was later replaced by the El Mercado restaurant.
- McMaster University had a student pub called The Rathskeller for over thirty years, in the basement of The Refectory dining hall. It closed in the early 2000s and was replaced with a restaurant.
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- Media related to Ratskeller at Wikimedia Commons