Room in the Subway tunnel? Bring back the Rat

With the recent talk that Subway might soon be moving to the Hilltop Café, we can’t help but wonder what might become of the Umrathskeller (German for Umrath basement). The student body is not without its opinions. Some have asked for another sandwich franchise to compete with Subway’s limited menu. Some have asked that Hilltop be reinstalled. But we can’t think of a better idea than the return of an institution most of us came here too late to enjoy: The Rat.

Opened in 1976, the Rat was once a popular bar and grill, then the campus’ only drinking spot. Even as late as 2001 Student Life reported that attendance to nights at the Rat often exceeded 800 for a 310 person capacity space. Theme parties, televised sporting events, back to school nights and an actual bar made the Rat the destination for anyone unable to afford a taxi to the landing or unwilling to make the schlep out to the Loop. The Rat enjoyed 26 years of success only to be closed in 2002, plagued by waning student interest and a rash of underage drinking incidents. Its death forced the frats to pick up the slack. We perceive that many within the Wash. U. community would appreciate some other public places to drink on campus with their friends. We think the Rat’s time has come again.

Should we bring back a bar on campus?

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Much has changed since 2002. Most who have memories of the Rat, good or bad, have graduated. If the University or Bon Appétit brought it back, it could apply the lessons it learned from the Rat’s previous failure to a brand new population.

More importantly, the administration has recently relaxed its sanctions of on- campus drinking. Wine and beer are readily available at all hours at Ibby’s, the Duc’s in-house restaurant. If the administration trusts us in this setting, is a campus bar such a stretch?

There are reasons, beyond the increased proximity to booze, to consider brining back the Rat. Since the closing of the Mallinckrodt Food Court, new food options on this campus have prompted long lines at Holmes Lounge and the University’s other popular eateries. With Hilltop’s closure this situation will only get worse. The Rat was a popular lunch location, and it would undoubtedly be again. Its centrality to the campus is another asset. We wager the school would see increased attendance at Graham Chapel and Edison Theater events. Students might also follow our sports more if they had a bar in which to watch them.

Many of our peer institutions allow on-campus bars, some of them to service student populations not known for sobriety. If Rice students can handle a bar, who says Wash. U. students can’t?

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