The All-American Rathskeller was a beloved drinking establishment for generations of patrons, especially Penn State students. The “Skeller,” as it was known, was the longest-operating bar in State College until it closed in 2017.
The Rathskeller opened near the corner of Pugh Street and College Avenue on November 6, 1933, the same year Prohibition ended. “Pop” Flood, owner of the Greenroom Restaurant in State College, thought there was an opportunity to expand his business by selling beer and food. At the time, liquor was not sold in the borough, and beer was only permitted for sale in taverns.
Flood operated the “Rathskeller & Gardens,” as it was called, for a year before selling it to C. C. “Doggie” Alexander, who changed the name to the “All American Rathskeller.” The Rathskeller became a favorite place for Penn State students to gather and regular customers became known as “Skeller Rats.” Rolling Rock brewery had been founded in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, in 1939, and 7-ounce bottles of Rolling Rock, known as “ponies,” were the drink of choice for many customers.
In 1958, Alexander sold the Rathskeller to Dean Smith of Potter’s Mills. During the 1960s, the Rathskeller expanded into a back room and another bar was added. A band stage also was built and local bands performed.
Because Rolling Rock ponies were small bottles, many customers ordered two. At some point, a customer asked if he could buy a case of bottles. Smith sold the customer the case and a tradition of selling cases of Rolling Rock began.
In 1980, John Patrick O’Connell bought the bar from Smith. O’Connell promoted the sale of cases, and the Rathskeller was proud to boast that it held the Guinness World Record for the number of cases (903) sold in a day.
Duke Gastiger and Eddie Hill, both former employees, purchased the establishment in 1986. Two years later, they bought the Old Main Restaurant above the Rathskeller and renamed it Spats Café & Speakeasy. The Rathskeller’s kitchen was dismantled and lunches were prepared in the Spats kitchen.
Hill sold his interest in 1993. Gastiger and his wife, Monica, continued operating the Rathskeller and Spats. The back bar and outdoor patio were remodeled in 2010. The Rathskeller remained popular a State College fixture for loyal customers, including Penn State alumni who returned when visiting the campus.
Charles and Neil Herlocher purchased the Foster Building which housed the Rathskeller and Spats in 2017. Faced with higher rents, the Gastigers decided to close both establishments. Soon after closing the Rathskeller on January 27, 2017, they removed the bar’s memorabilia, which included signs, tables, lights, and photos. New operators reopened the bar under the name Doggie’s Rathskeller and Garden to reflect the bar’s history. The Gastigers filed a lawsuit to protect the Rathskeller name. It was settled out of court.
Now called Doggie’s Pub, it continues to operate in the same location and is popular with a new generation of customers. The Gastigers opened a new restaurant, RE Farm Café. The Ratskeller memorabilia, which had been stored, was sold at an auction in 2021. Loyal patrons could boast they had a piece of the landmark bar where they had enjoyed good times.
The Rathskeller. www.theskeller.com (Accessed June 23, 2021).
Pallotto, Brett. “What’s in a name? Rathskeller owners file lawsuit for trademark infringement.” Centre Daily Times, September 7, 2018.
First Published: July 18, 2021
Last Modified: September 18, 2021