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28 April 2011

Temporary Rat location to imitate original

Marking the initial stage of construction towards a new $20 million Student Activities Center, the Rathskeller will officially close its doors on Friday. Although the 38-year UM hallmark will reopen at its current location in June of 2013, the restaurant will be temporarily moved to what is now Sbarro in the University Center.
Over the summer, university administrators will work to transition Sbarro into a darker, bar-like atmosphere that emulates the historic Rat.
Outdoor gliders will be relocated to the UC Patio, the Pan-Hellenic Building and other campus locations. For safety and security measures, a majority of memorabilia will be transported and stored off-campus. Additionally, all students currently employed at the restaurant have been guaranteed their jobs next fall and will be given priority before new students are hired.
“We’re doing everything to preserve the Rat brand,” said Patricia Whitely, vice president for student affairs. “There’s no way we can absolutely design it to look perfect like the Rat, but we are going to do some design enhancements in Sbarro, recognizing that we do have some limitations on what we could potentially offer for food.”
The Sbarro location does not have an indoor kitchen grill, raising uncertainty over which menu items will return. This week, consultants from Brailsford & Dunlavey, a program management firm specializing in facility planning, met with university administrators to detail the logistics of this move.
“We’re very optimistic that we’re going to be able to continue a lot of the Rathskeller menu items,” said Dan Westbrook, director of the University Center. “We think that they came up with a pretty efficient way to maybe do a lot of the things that we wanted to do, and the students wanted to do.”
According to Richard Walker, associate vice president for student affairs, ideas for the space capacity and furniture inside the temporary location are still being developed. However, there has been discussion of the potential for couches and soft seating to maximize student comfort. Liquor licenses are being renewed and the temporary location will be able to serve beer and wine.
The Rathskeller Advisory Board (RAB), a student run organization in charge of programming for the Rat, will decide what events must be canceled or modified.
“There are many events that we will not be physically able to do in the vicinity of Sbarro,” said Randa Obid, chair of RAB. “We will probably be able to only put on more passive programming such as happy hour, bands outside on the patio, and pub trivia.”
Rumors of the restaurant’s closing circled for years, but the official statement was made April 6, when the university announced the construction of the new Student Activities Center.
“The Rat will definitely not have the same feeling. Basically, it’s going to suck,” said Mouriel Boucher, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. “But, I’m really looking forward to this new Student Activities Center and the new Rat. So, this whole move to Sbarro just means that it’s one step closer to the awesome, new and improved Rat.”
Renovations to the University Center will also take place this summer. Hurricane resistant glass will be installed, the info desk will be remodeled and the main staircase will be redesigned. A new pool deck will be constructed and the first and second floor lounges will also be remodeled with new flooring, lighting and furniture.
The temporary location of the Rathskeller is set to open August 17.

Jonathan Borge may be contacted jborge@themiamihurricane.com.