In 2014, the basement of Lyons Hall serves as a quiet dining hall for students to grab a quick, usually pre-packaged lunch between classes. Opening at 8 a.m. and closing at its new, later time of 3:30 p.m. only during the week, Welch Dining Room, known as the Rat, provides an academic environment suitable for student-faculty collaboration.
In 1980, however, the Rathskellar was Boston College’s on-campus pub and bar, and it provided a much different atmosphere for meetings and socializing, then between the hours of 9 p.m. and 1 a.m. An advertisement in the Sept. 26 edition of The Heights reminded students that the Rat’s admission price was only 50 cents on Thursday nights.
Not only did the Rat serve as a pub, it was also the center for various forms of on-campus entertainment. “The Rat began in 1971 with a $70,000 loan,” reporter Nate Holt wrote in an article on Jan. 16, 1978. The article revealed that Rat manager Tim Horrigan planned to revamp the programming in the pub to attract more attendees.
The Rat was open to BC students on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights. According to Horrigan, the pub was “slowest on Monday and Wednesday.” In order to fix the problem, Horrigan planned to implement “ping-pong, backgammon, bridge, and dart tournaments … to beef up attendance.”
In addition, the Rat’s long-time performer, DJ Mike Curry, was replaced with Amy Whorf, who promised to play “a bit more disco” instead of the “oldies-dominated material” offered by Curry. Horrigan insisted, “BC can’t be caught in a mid-sixties time warp forever.”
In another effort to boost attendance, the same article announced that for the first time in its history, the Rat would be serving pitchers of beer as well as light beer, but still no hard liquor due to the Newton ordinance against hard liquor consumption. As one student pointed out, though, in the Feb. 25, 1980 issue, “Just because they don’t sell liquor here doesn’t mean we can’t party somewhere else and then come here-it’s still a great place to have a good time and meet people.”
Just over a year after these modifications, Massachusetts lawmakers raised the legal drinking age from 18 to 20, forcing BC to relinquish the alcohol authorization necessary to keep the Rat open as a pub. The Rat went on a nearly two-year hiatus, but returned in September 1981 after student negotiations with administration.
“It’s the Rat the way it used to be,” said then-UGBC President Joanne Caruso in the Sept. 14 issue of that year. “We’ll have a DJ each week and possibly live bands once a month.”
In 1982, UGBC brought the band Private Lightning to the pub to a sold-out audience. In the Nov. 12, 1991 issue of The Heights, students were photographed enjoying a conga line for ’70s Night in the Rat.
Perhaps one of the more notable performers to perform in the Rat, Vanilla Ice arrived at BC on Feb. 3, 2000 to perform his “anthem ‘Ice, Ice Baby,'” according to the Jan. 25, 2000 issue. The article revealed that Vanilla Ice would be performing two sets: one for all ages and the other for students 21 and over.
The Rat’s atmosphere along with its food was much different than its current, health-conscious selections. In the March 23, 1998 issue, Heights staff member Katra Cuskaden reported on the first healthy dining option to be offered in the Rat. Until that point, only greasy, fried options were available such as cheeseburgers, chicken sticks, and fries. According to Patricia Bando, director of BC Dining Services at the time, “We wanted a whole new look at Lyons.”
The new line, Wrap Express, was introduced based on the students’ call for healthier options. But the switch did not come without opposition. A satirical headline from the 2002 issue of The Depths read, “Student profoundly satisfied after meal in the Rat.” Cries from the Sept. 21, 2006 issue read, “We want the old Rat back,” after the dining hall switched to entirely healthier options.
The Rat peaked in popularity in the late ’80s and ’90s and soon lost appeal for later generations. In the Sept. 4, 2001 installment of Voices from the Dutsbowl, only one participant knew what the Rat actually was. Chris Tomeek, BC ’05, answered, “An old bar underneath Lyons-my dad used to be the bouncer there.” Other very wrong answers included, “A little demon that lives in the football stadium and terrorizes the opposing team,” and “Probably on my floor because I live in the basement of Keyes North.”