#TBT To When JJ’s Was A Bar
Written by Ramisa Murshed
You may know JJ’s Place as the dining hall that’s there for you with cheeseburgers, curly fries, and mozzarella sticks whenever you need them, but long ago, the space in the basement of John Jay that JJ’s now occupies was a bar that served alcohol to upperclassmen.
Opened in 1939, the basement of John Jay, then known as the Lion’s Den Pub, served as an important social hub for Columbia students. An article in LIFE from February 15, 1954 described the Lion’s Den as a place “where there is music and dancing, and a certain amount of beer, and a thick fog of tobacco smoke, and a sustained, genial noise.” Richard Goldwater (CC ‘63) said it was “small, but had the authentic beery atmosphere.”
Barnard students would frequent the Lion’s Den prior to Columbia opening its doors to women, musical performances (including the Glee Club Quartet, which performed at the opening to the Lion’s Den), and even the Varsity Show would take place in the pub, and Columbia students didn’t have to leave campus to get a beer.
The Lion’s Den in John Jay soon closed its doors, and a new one opened in Ferris Booth Hall, what is now Lerner Hall, around 1962. The Lion’s Den in Ferris Booth Hall had a much more modern appearance, which, according to Goldwater “even in the sentimental glow of retrospect looks awful and sterile.” The Lion’s Den in Ferris Booth Hall closed in 1971. Later, in 1996, the basement of John Jay, then called “the Lodge,” became JJ’s Place.
When walking down the stairs of John Jay to get to JJ’s on a Tuesday night after a long day of studying, it seems almost unimaginable that the space where hungry college students devour thousands of calories once housed a focal point for nightlife. Although alcohol is no longer served and the sticky beer-permeated floors are now much cleaner, one characteristic of the Lion’s Den still remains in JJ’s: students love it.
JJ’s via Columbia Dining
The first Lion’s Den via Spectator Archives
The Lion’s Den in Ferris Booth Hall via Columbia College Today