Home Breaking News How the ‘worst pub in London’ became a thriving female-led hub where...

How the ‘worst pub in London’ became a thriving female-led hub where the previous owner is banned

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“I avoided this place like the plague,” says Daryl, a barman and Globe Town local.

The place he is referring to is now the place he works at.

The Angel & Crown pub, on Roman Road, saw itself named the ‘worst pub in London’ by both national press and its surrounding community.

However, this reputation has had a dramatic turn around in the past couple of years.

‘New management, new look, new food and drink’ – states the pub’s website which has been in operation in the area since 1889.

Despite its long history of serving the community, the pub was thrust into the national spotlight for being violent, intimidating and drug-infested.

There were accounts of fights breaking out, public urination, loud arguments, xenophobic attacks and “laughing gas being inhaled, cannabis being smoked and powder being snorted on the back of hands” by customers in the street.

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Out with the old, in with the blue

One man commented about it at the time: “Out of all the pubs in London I have been to, The Angel and Crown is by far the worst.”

In 2017, after a series of complaints from neighbours, the former owner Stephen Baldwin decided to sell.

Anyone looking to take over The Angel & Crown was facing a massive uphill battle in terms of licensing, winning back the community’s trust and improving the reputation of the pub around London.

The pub shut in 2018 and looked like it could go the way of many, with thousands of pubs closing permanently in the UK every year.

But this is not the end of the story.

In 2019, Mel Keogh, the current landlady, started the arduous process of rebuilding the once beloved local.

However, Mel is an unlikely publican.

She switched her life as a financial analyst for phone company EE for one behind the bar.

A look inside which many locals had never seen under the old management

A look inside which many locals had never seen under the old management

Mel moved to the area in 2016 and says she was dimly aware of the pub’s bad name and after some soul-searching while travelling she made her decision to help rejuvenate the ailing taproom.

“I was on my way back from the airport and I saw the place was closed,” said Mel, who is from South East London originally.

“it’s a shame when pubs close, especially in London.

“I care about the community, I know about the community because I’m a part of it.”

This is a big driving force behind her desire to save the historic East End pub from ruin.

In licensing documents she submitted to Tower Hamlets Council during the long campaign to reopen, Mel wrote: “The pub has been in existence in the same stretch of road since 1889 and until recent years had served the community without issue.

“With several other local pubs having closed in the area, I believe there is a need in the neighbourhood for a pub to serve the community.”

It took her a whole year to get the place into shape.

She spent four months renovating with her dad and another six to get a licence.

The exhaustive process of getting The Angel & Crown a proper licence required a lot of effort on Mel’s part, thanks to the way the pub was previously managed.

She pulled together dozens of signatures to petition the council.

“I got the keys in 2019, but it took six months to get the licence because I needed to prove I was a responsible owner,” she added.

The pub finally reopened in December 2020, only to have to close again due to lockdown.

Mel persevered, topping up her business with a pints takeaway and delivery service.

She also took advantage of a series of local promotional billboards set up during the pandemic by Coca-Cola to support local businesses and bring the community back to her pub.

Mel's hoping to attract customers in with her homemade neon light

Mel’s hoping to attract customers in with her homemade neon light

With the pub reopening for a second time on July 4, Mel seems to have been successful in her mission.

As we sat outside the front she waves, smiles and exchanges a few words of greeting with people walking along Roman Road, she is now a recognisable face in this part of London.

The pub as it is now, looks much transformed with young families, students and couples enjoying the remaining summer sun on the benches that extend out onto the pavement.

“I want to make this an inclusive place,” says Mel.

“It’s different from before, some people don’t like that but I’m pleased with the one star reviews.

Some old locals don’t like the new inclusive and family friendly atmosphere with one one star review saying “It[‘s] not the same, [it’s] boring.”

But this hasn’t halted Mel’s vision. She describes the pub online as female-led and has introduced a weekly drag quiz night.

“I think female-led business can help with the inclusive aspect,” she said.

“Pub culture is seen as very manly, I think it helps women feel more welcome.”

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Thanks to the pub’s makeover Mel has also seen a lot of new faces with students coming from nearby Queen Mary University of London as well as locals who used to be “too scared” to come in.

When asked what the hardest part of the job has been, Mel said she was once caught up in a scuffle with a thief who broke her finger and she’s had to do “a lot of barring”.

One notable person that she has asked not to come back is the previous owner Stephen.

“He made it so hard to get that licence because of what he let go on here, so I told him not to come back”, she said.

Just another example of Mel’s ‘out with the old, in with the new’ philosophy.

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https://www.mylondon.news/news/east-london-news/how-worst-pub-london-became-21435201