Company begins renovations on venue once occupied by Ramshead Rathskeller


Ramshead Rathskeller’s vacated space could be replaced by three businesses.

Chapel Hill’s once-famed Ramshead Rathskeller will not return to its cellar home just off Franklin Street — but three other businesses could soon occupy the space the restaurant vacated in 2008.

Located in Amber Alley directly across from Bandido’s Mexican Cafe, the restaurant served as a watering hole for Chapel Hill residents for more than 60 years.

“The original owner of the restaurant wanted to accommodate war veterans with the opening of ‘The Rat’,” said Johnny Morris, president of Morris Commercial, the real estate company representing the building’s landlord.

“It was a great place for a long time, but the space for the building was hand-dug, so there are just a lot of messed-up parts now,” Morris said.

Morris Commercial has hired contractors to begin renovating the space.

The contractors are currently lowering the floors, putting in new plumbing and installing sprinklers.

Morris said his goal is to create a space that will be more leasable.

After the renovations are complete, Morris Commercial hopes to lease the building to three separate tenants.

“We could put offices down there, a deli or even retail shops,” Morris said.

“By the end of the renovations, it will be a new shell space.”

Diane Fountain, current owner of “The Rat,” has been trying to re-open the restaurant in its original location since 2010, but she said structural problems with the space proved to be too much of an obstacle.

She said the building was leaking and the floor from the upper level was falling through.

“There were mice, sewage would literally rain down on us, and a white sewage pipe went right through the building,” she said.

Catherine Lazorko, spokeswoman for the town of Chapel Hill, said in an email that the last construction permit for the space was filed in July 2012 for a structural ceiling repair.

Morris said the structure of the building — specifically its ventilation — makes it almost impossible to have a full-service kitchen.

“Plus, with the economics of Franklin Street, I just don’t see how another full-service restaurant would be successful down in that alley way.”

Morris said the company has not set a completion date for the renovations.

He said there are no lease rates for the spaces yet, but he hopes to start marketing it soon.

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