Merlin Entertainments is a British company that operates more than 120 mostly theme attractions that are scattered throughout 25 countries. It runs all of the Legoland parks, the Madame Tussaud’s-branded wax museums, and the three hellish-looking Peppa Pig World of Play locations.
The company is also responsible for nine different Dungeons in nine different cities, which all cheerfully illustrate an assortment of horrors that are specific to each location. The Amsterdam Dungeon, for example, leans hard on a local ghost named Helena, while the Edinburgh Dungeon shares every serrated detail of Mary Queen of Scots’ beheading, and The Shanghai Dungeon apparently just gets mistaken for a different attraction called The Ghost House. (“Again, we are not the Ghost House,” its website insists.) Five of the nine Dungeons have plague-themed sections, that focus on Plague Doctors or Plague Hospitals or just the plague-plague.
That makes their decision to host occasional rat cafes even more confusing, especially in locations where they connect the rodents to the disease itself. (“The rats carry the fleas, the fleas carry the plague, the fleas bite YOU,” the London Dungeon warns.)
The next pop-up rat cafe will be held in connection with the San Francisco Dungeon, and it will run from June 13-15. “Cong-RATS, ladies and bRODENTS, all of your dreams will come true,” the Rat Bar’s event page says, and this is already a hard pass, even without the $49.99 ticket fee. The cost of entry includes a trip through the Dungeon, an “Ama-RAT-o Sour” welcome cocktail, and “30 minutes of play time with the rats.” The rodents will all be provided by Ratical Rodent Rescue, a California-based organization that serves as both a sanctuary and an adoption agency for small animals.
If dropping 50 bucks to hold a rat and eat a sour-soaked maraschino cherry sounds great to you, cool. But the Dungeon held a similar event in San Francisco two years ago, and it seemed slightly less exciting than whatever you’re imagining right now. The San Francisco Chronicle was disappointed to learn that the participants didn’t actually get to play with rats. Instead, they watched two volunteers from a different rat rescue organization carry two rodents through the room while they answered questions and let the guests pet the rats. “We were not seated; we were not surrounded [by rats],” the Chronicle wrote.
These one- or two-night rat cafes have previously been held in association with the Dungeons in Blackpool, York, and London, where participants were promised “frothy Ratuccino [and] luxurious Rattes with slices of Black Forest ‘rateau’,” which all seem to pair well with generous servings of Dad Jokes. Despite its obsession with animal cafes, even Tokyo doesn’t have a rat version; the only non-Dungeon-related ratstablishment we’ve heard about was just an April Fool’s joke from Bon Appetit.
You’ll have to wait until mid-June (and spend $49) to find out whether this year’s Rat Bar is better than the San Francisco Dungeon’s previous attempt. We like to think that you’ll be up to your eyebrows in rodents and sour mix, and not just filled with reg-RATS. See? We can do it, too.