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.
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.
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