Der Keller

Der Keller, 1970  Fathers Don Talafous and Donald LeMay in Der Keller, ca. 1970 
Der Keller, 1970 and Fathers Don Talafous and Donald LeMay in Der Keller, ca. 1970 (click thumbnail for larger image)

Der Keller, the first on-campus drinking lounge and snack bar, opened in the fall of 1970. Aptly named “the cellar” in German, Der Keller was located in the basement of the food services area across from Frank House. Students were able to reserve private dining rooms 24 hours in advance and enjoy a snack bar and 21+ drinking lounge. 

“Der Keller is a unique eating establishment for all Johnnies. It offers three separate areas for eating enjoyment. One is a Snack Bar area open to all Johnnies. Another is an area designated for those Johnnies 21 years of age or over to enjoy a beer or pop of their choice. This area has a limited amount of seating space. So only one guest per Johnny is permitted. Rules to this area are posted there. The third area consists of five private dining rooms to be used for private affairs. 

Hours 9:00 p.m, to 1:00 a.m. — Monday through Sunday.”

-From the 1971-1972 J-Book, p. 26

Jerry Mead, the food service director at the time, headed the Der Keller project and worked with the administrative council to create a relaxed space for students to eat and spend time together. He sought an antique and unique atmosphere, which is what the natural environment of Der Keller’s basement location offered.

Der Keller was also popular with the faculty.  Frank Rioux, SJU professor of Chemistry, recalled in 2017 that “Well before the buffet offerings in the Quad, there were more extravagant lunches in Der Keller at which faculty and administration marveled at culinary expertise of Jerry Mead, director of the SJU Dining Service. On a Friday afternoon you could return to Der Keller for a beer and popcorn and listen to Fr. Don LeMay on the piano.” 

In 1980, Der Keller was replaced with storage for food services. The Student Executive Committee searched for alternative replacements, even trying to serve beer to of-age students in Mary Hall, however settling for the old Butcher Shop. Eventually, Brother Willie’s Pub (BWP), located in Sexton Commons, became the replacement for Der Keller.