UM’s beloved sports bar, The Rathskeller, celebrates its 50th anniversary

President Stanford and friends drink at The Rathskeller, Homecoming 1980

Nestled between lush palm trees and the vibrant energy of student life, cherished student sports bar The Rathskeller, affectionately known as “The Rat,” has been a social hub by and for students for exactly half a century.

The Rat first opened its doors in 1973 under President Henry Stanford, and it quickly became a gathering spot for students seeking a break from their studies, a place to watch the latest Hurricanes game with a beer in hand or a stage for live entertainment.

The name “Rathskeller” is a German term meaning “council’s cellar.” Historically, it referred to a tavern or restaurant located in the basement of a city hall or university building. This connection to tradition and community has been carried forward into the modern-day Rat.

The Rat has also been a space where many students can find employment while completing their studies, and because of its student-run nature, it has traditionally been one of the more flexible work-study options on campus.

“I decided to work at The Rat because it was very convenient for me as a student,” said Jade Hidalgo, a sophomore studying journalism who works as a server at the venue. “They’re very flexible with hours and understand that school comes first. Events are always a fun time, people always get excited to come here, and the energy of the staff and customers is always higher when there’s something fun going on.”

For many students, getting their first beer or pitcher from The Rat is a traditional rite of passage for fresh 21-year-olds.

“When I went with friends to get my first drink at The Rat, it felt pretty special,” said senior Monica Gupta. “You can obviously get your first drink anywhere after you turn 21, but after waiting four years to finally do it at The Rat, it’s like you’ve finally achieved that last part of your UM experience.”

The Rat is also well-known for its various events coordinated and hosted by the student organization Hurricane Productions. Sal Puma, a junior who serves as The Rathskeller HP Chair, has been helping to coordinate events at The Rat since he started at UM.

“The Rat, in my eyes, is a place for students to unwind in between or after classes,” said Puma. “Whether it’s catching a quick bite or catching up with friends, it’s a place to socialize on campus. Sometimes it’s hard to go out and find time to get lunch or dinner with friends during a busy school week, and The Rat gives that opportunity to students.”

From bands and comedy shows to trivia nights and karaoke, the stage at The Rat has seen all that ‘Canes student life has to offer. Gloria Estefan, UM alum and Grammy-winning Latin musician, mentioned during her trip to the University this past September that she and partner Emilio Estefan started their iconic band, the Miami Sound Machine, by playing at The Rat. They went on to have national chart-topping hits like “Conga” and “Rhythm is Gonna Get You.”

Throughout its history, The Rathskeller has demonstrated an impressive ability to adapt to the changing needs and preferences of students. For instance, with the development of the Shalala Student Center in 2013, The Rat underwent a significant renovation to be connected to the student activities complex, including a brand-new outdoor seating area overlooking Lake Osceola. This enhancement not only added more seating but also created a picturesque environment where students could enjoy their meals while taking in the natural beauty of the campus.

As The Rathskeller commemorates its 50th anniversary, it’s an opportunity to reflect on the countless memories and experiences that have been made within its walls. For many alumni, The Rat holds a special place in their hearts as a backdrop to their college years. It’s where they celebrated victories, consoled each other in defeats and found a sense of belonging within the university community.

To celebrate this milestone, the University organized a series of events in the past year. These included alumni gatherings, live music and special promotions. The anniversary celebrations were a testament to the enduring appeal of The Rat, which has remained a constant in the lives of generations of ‘Canes.

“There were a bunch of different events we did for the 50th anniversary this past spring,” Puma said. “We had a drag brunch, we enhanced our weekly Trivia Tuesday with more questions and prizes, threw a wing eating competition and we even brought a dance floor into The Rathskeller. I helped run some of the events and we brainstormed the concepts for them with our general body members.”

As The Rat continues to persevere beyond its 50 year legacy, it remains an indispensable part of the UM experience. For current students, it’s a place to create their own memories, and for alumni, it’s a chance to reminisce and reconnect with their nostalgic college days. With its rich history and its promising future, the sports bar and student home is sure to remain a cherished institution within the ‘Cane community for generations to come.

“My favorite memory of working here would probably be working homecoming last year,” Hidalgo said. “It was crazy busy but so fun because everyone is so excited to see the fireworks and come together as a community. Through my time working at The Rat, I’ve made lots of connections with other employees and made many memories that will definitely stand out to me when I graduate from UM.”

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Caroline Val
Caroline Val is a senior from Orlando, Fla. majoring in journalism and with double minors in political science and French. She began writing for the news section of The Hurricane in the fall of her sophomore year and developed its first ever podcast, Catch Up 'Canes, as podcast editor last year. Born in Miami, Caroline is excited to reconnect with the South Florida community through storytelling, interviews, and writing as co-news editor this year. Val is also a freelance contributor for the Miami New Times, an intern with News@theU, and loves trying all the new restaurants in Miami in her spare time!