I’ve walked passed The All-American Rathskeller hundreds of times since I came to Penn State two years ago. I’ve heard countless stories from parents, alumni, and freshly 21-year-old friends exploring State College bars for the first time. I’ve read the story of the historic establishment just as many times.
In anticipation of my 21st birthday, my friends have given me some advice: You have to find your bar. You’ll enjoy your first few nights of legal drinking age celebrating at The Phyrst or maybe Cafe 210 West, but after you get a taste of all downtown nightlife has to offer, you’ll find yourself suggesting you go to the same bar more and more frequently.
I always wanted that bar to be The Skeller.
I’ve been on the outside looking in for the last two years and I couldn’t wait to get in. It’s a place with a story, a place I can share with those related to me by red blood or just blue and white. It’s a glimpse into the past, filled with the fellowship of the present. It was never just a bar — it’s State College’s oldest watering hole, a place where traditions are made, a homemade hearth burning since 1933.
The owners of The Skeller and Spats Cafe announced yesterday both businesses will close their doors and the Penn State community responded with an outpouring of both overwhelming love and frustration.
I realized then it wouldn’t just be my bar because it already belonged to everyone.
Don’t just take my word for it. I asked some of my fellow underage colleagues what they’ve heard about the All-American Rathskeller since they arrived in State College. The name’s become synonymous with a few local staples, even among some people under 21, and they’re upset they’ll have to miss out.
From “dirty in the best way possible” to Thursday night trivia, I got to hear stories of what was, and what could’ve been. We can only imagine the atmosphere inside, with the wooden tables and classic signs. We’ll never be able to leave our own marks on the Skeller.
We’ll never have the chance to share a case of Rolling Rock ponies on a Friday night. And we’ll never be able to bond over our shared love of the Skeller with our favorite alumni, whether they’re our parents, friends, or just relative strangers we met at the bar along the way.
For every underager eager to get into The Skeller, there are dozens more who don’t know a thing about it. Up until yesterday, that was an exciting thing. Now, it’s scary to think they won’t get to take in all the magic of a college town landmark with no prior history lesson for the first time.
It’s unclear what the future of the the property looks like, but as you Rathskeller veterans petition to #SaveTheSkeller, think about the stories your parents and grandparents told you about scribbling their names on bathroom walls, standing on pony cases to see the band, and getting thrown out of the joint for throwing popcorn. Think about what your first night was like in the dusty, wooden-clad bar underneath the rest of the world. Think about all the memories you made there.
All we want is the chance to make our own.