The Eyeopener staff, early 1980s. Clearly we don't drink enough nowadays.

Our Boozy Past

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Currently the Ram in the Rye is our only official campus watering hole. But Ryerson has housed several different pubs in its history, and students have played a role in both persuading the administration to keep their pubs open and damaging their credibility by being drunken buffoons.

Students somehow survived two droughts: a beer strike in 1976 and  a slow shipment in 1985 that caused all campus pubs to run dry for about a week.

It sounds dismal. Think about how terrible last night would have been if the barkeep announced the taps were empty.

So on a haggard Sunday, we pay tribute to the public houses Ryerson students have frequented over the years.


Oakham House

Originally a boys’ boardinghouse, Ryerson bought Oakham House in 1958 to be used as student space. The basement, which now houses the Ram, has operated as a pub under several different names. The space was smoker-friendly, which became good for business when smokers could no longer light up in the Filling Station in Jorgensen Hall’s basement. At different times Oakham’s basement housed the Ram’s Corral, the Junkyard, and The Cavern, which opened in 1996 after The Edge shut down.

The Cavern was meant to be the new hopping bar, but one Edge DJ said it looked like “a cafeteria with the lights turned off.” This was partially true, as the space operated as a cafeteria during the day. The students’ union, then called SURPI, spent $300,000 on renovations to make the space wheelchair-accessible and look more like a pub.

The Filling Station & The Edge

A long-time part of campus, a pub opened in the basement of Jorgensen Hall in 1975 and stayed open for 20 years. For the first 15 years, it was called the Filling Station or just “The Pub”. It became a big concert venue. During its history, the pub hosted big acts like the Police, B-52s and Joan Jett. Yearly fixtures included a Battle of the Bands and a Dirty Dancing competition, where the objective was to be as sleazy as possible with your partner.

But despite its status as “The Pub”,  the Filling Station always struggled financially. The pub began to lose money after Toronto city council ruled in 1986 that at least 30 per cent of bar space had to be smoke-free, and  eventually voted to ban smoking in buildings without their own ventilation systems.

A 1988 student poll found that only 60 per cent of students drank on campus. SURPI considered spending $220,000 on a revamp of the Filling Station. The Women’s Centre complained this showed the union cared more about boozing than equal rights.

While the renovations didn’t happen, the pub was reborn in 1990 as the Edge in an attempt to regain revenue. But as a result of some beer-inspired vandalism, the students’ union lost even more money. A sink was yanked out of the men’s bathroom wall, someone peed in a water fountain, and four floors of Jorgensen were flooded after a hose was pulled out of the wall. The Eyeopener reported in March 1992 that vandalism had cost the school $28,000.

Other notable incidents included the theft of two Ram heads from the pub and $7,000 in sound equipment.

In November 1990, after a lot of pressure, minors were allowed in. But the pub was still doing poorly, and five years later, The Edge shut down, citing $200,000 in debt over the last six years. Students complained of bad music, warm beer and too many engineers.

The Cellar

At the corner of Church and Gerrard, this late 1980s bar marketed itself as the unofficial campus pub. According to one attendee, it looked like “someone’s basement.” Water pipes hung from the ceiling and the walls were made of concrete. This student deemed it “cozy”, which meant really small. The Cellar shut down promptly at 1 a.m. every night.


Beer Prices on Campus

1977- 90 cents for a pint of domestic beer

1980- $1.70 for a pitcher (pint price unknown)

1981- $1.80 per pitcher

1987- $2.05 per pint

1991- $3.15  per pint

2011- $6.37 per pint


  1. My name is Wes. I was one of the DJs at The Cellar. I was feeling nostalgic and I came across your article. I was a bit disappointed with how little information has lasted about The Cellar. It only existed for a single school year, 1987-88 to the best of my recollection, but it was a happening place that year. The year before it was a restaurant called Crispins, and at the back was a bar called Buddy’s Back Door. Both were losing money, so a new manager was brought in who was told to raise sales so that the bar could be sold at a profit. The new manager brought in 3 beautiful waitresses and an experienced bartender. They also hired Dave, I don’t remember his last name, but he hosted a show called Dave’s Dance Music on CKLN (Ryerson Radio). He lasted about a week or 2 and I was hired to play more Rock & New Wave when most clubs were playing dance music, including The Filling Station and Oakham house. Whatever we were doing right, despite the ceiling pipes and by the way the walls were made of brick, the little basement with a licence for 187 often had a lineup out the door and 350 people in the place on a Thursday night. It often took 10 minutes to get from the front to the washroom. Our unofficial bouncers were a few members of the hockey team. The following year the bar was sold and became the Lizard Lounge. I don’t know how long it lasted but the new owner liked playing 70’s disco for his friends.

  2. I have a funny story from 1988ish. The cellar was a regular spot for Ryerson students. One of the nights we went to the Cellar I had run out of money (which was daily as a student) and ventured into the neighbouring restaurant (through an unlocked door). On the bar of the restaurant was a six-pack of Hieneken! “Bingo” I figured. This was the score of a lifetime. So I removed the beers from the six pack and did my best to hide them under my blue leather Ryerson jacket as I made my way back into the Cellar. As I made my way into the main area past the bar, one of the bottles dropped to the floor and made a HUGE bang noise. The sound was so loud it felt like the whole bar heard it.
    I thought “Oh no, I have been caught and I am going to get kicked out or worse going to jail”. Just then a bartender walked up to me, (I didn’t want to make eye contact at this point) and said “Hey bud… do you want me to open that for you?”. I was incredulous and said “Yes please”. I simultaneously felt like a scumbag and a lottery winner! The night went well. One of my best memories!

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