Even at a school known for its construction projects, this change hit home harder than most: The Rathskeller, the spot on campus for great food, music, and high-spirited fun in the Brower Student Center, closed forever as the building that housed it undergoes a multiyear renovation. Here are 10 things to remember about that beloved establishment.
- The Rat opened in September 1976, after construction delays pushed the Student Center’s completion back nearly a year.
- It wasn’t the only bar on campus when it debuted; in fact, it wasn’t even the most popular. The Pub, in the old Phelps Hall (where Eickhoff now stands), is where the crowds went. The Rat was originally intended to have a quieter, coffeehouse-like atmosphere.
- Student fees—not state money—funded the Student Center’s construction, which means many of the people reading this magazine paid for the Rat to be built.
- The Rathskeller featured its share of big-name musicians through the years. The first was future Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Tom Waits, who played there on Dec. 15, 1976. Tickets were $3.
- Plenty of lesser-known and long-forgotten bands graced its stage as well, including Valentine, the Frank Stallone-fronted doo-wop group made briefly famous in the movie “Rocky.”
- The Rat only sold bottled beer during its first year of operation because beer taps weren’t installed until summer ’77. (It’s unknown if they’d been cleaned since.)
- When the Pub closed in 1984, the Rat inherited that venue’s sound system and, shortly thereafter, its long lines and rowdy crowds, prompting discussions of reopening the Pub and converting the Rat into a venue for lectures, plays, and movies.
- Countless Radiothons took place in the Rat; so, too, did some colorful competitions as part of those marathon fundraising events, including joint roll-a thons (using cherry tobacco, of course) and erotic banana-eating contests.
- News of the Rat’s closing generated eating contests the biggest single-day TCNJ Facebook response: 52,576 people reached, 348 likes, 224 shares, and 190 comments—many from people lamenting they’ll never again eat a Rat Buffalo Chicken Wrap.
- Last call at The Rat was called on May 19, 2015.
PHOTO COURTESY OF TCNJ SEAL YEARBOOK