A look back at the popular Adelphi hangout spot
Head to the basement of the Ruth S. Harley University Center today, and you’ll find the Underground Café , a cozy coffee bar. Once upon a time (like at the end of the last century), though, it was a bar of a very different sort—The Rathskeller, a.k.a., The Ratt.
Described in the 1980–1982 University Bulletin as a pub “in the best Greenwich Village tradition,” The Ratt was more than just a place for students, faculty and administrators alike to grab drinks. “A lot of events would happen there—things that weren’t big enough to fill up the ballroom,” Andrew Brooks ’97 reminisces. Mr. Brooks recalls that many fraternities (like his own, Phi Gamma Delta) and sororities would hold events there because the environment was fun—and because the space was free; the proceeds collected from cover charges would go to charity.
The 1977 Oracle describes The Ratt as “perhaps the only place on campus which every student will visit at least once during his college career,” and calls it “a place of interactions.” With a poolroom next door, and a small stage for performances in the bar, the atmosphere was a casual, loose one that people from all walks of campus life could enjoy.
It was while tending bar there that Rich Schwab ’96 met an administrator who helped him secure the funding he needed for his senior film project. Mr. Schwab also fondly remembers catching up with Professor Sal Primeggia ’64, M.A. ’66, and other faculty who would stop by The Ratt during the week.
The Ratt opened as soon as the University Center was completed in the fall of 1970. Alan Markowitz ’74, who experienced The Ratt’s earliest days, recalls that “back in the, day the drinking age began at 18” and fraternity events were common.
He also notes that the players from Adelphi’s nationally ranked soccer team dominated the foosball games that were held there, and remembers his Pi Lambda Phi fraternity brother, Glenn Wiener ’74, acting as a Father Goose figure to his friends. Mr. Wiener says the tradition started one night when he was “a little buzzed,” got onto the stage, and began telling his friends fairy tales.
“Next thing I knew, that became one of the Rathskeller routines—I’d get up on that little stage and tell fairy tales to a group of friends while we all drank together… It was a wonderful experience.”
Professor Nicholas Petron, M.A. ’70, professor and chair of Adelphi’s theatre department, has been a full-time faculty member for 40 years, since the start of Adelphi’s B.F.A. in theatre. He recalls staging cabarets in The Ratt. “It was a real cabaret theatre in the sense that there were tables and chairs…and you could pour beer or a glass of wine…and so it got a little raucous obviously,” he says.
Oracles from the 1980s testify to the variety of activities held at The Ratt. In 1989, it served as the venue for a “Blizzard of Bucks” game show hosted by the Student Activities Board (SAB). The Student Political Association threw parties there, like the one in 1988 to announce the SAB election results. The Ratt was even transformed from a pub to a stylish French café several times in the late 1980s for a campus event—Le Chez Café (an uncanny precursor of today’s Underground Café ).
The Ratt also served as an extension to larger-scale parties, such as the notorious annual Halloween party. At the one in 1989, the University Center ballroom was styled as a haunted house, and The Ratt became the cemetery.
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