If you’ve recently caught the bus from a Bethnal Green Road bus stop or ventured as far out as the Old Street roundabout, you might have spotted a familiar building; it is one that you would have walked past on the junction of Roman Road and Smart Street many times.
The Angel and Crown pub, with its baby-blue signage, is gracing the iconic electronic billboard hanging over the centre of Old Street.
The Roman Road pub and its owner Melise Keogh was one of only two independent businesses in London that were picked to be one of the faces of Coca-Cola’s campaign ‘Open like Never Before’. It is aimed at supporting independent businesses throughout the coronavirus pandemic by giving them free advertising space. Keogh is one of four business-owners to be picked in three British cities, with the others in Newcastle and Edinburgh.
‘I’m in disbelief,’ says Keogh. ‘To see my face right across Old Street roundabout right next to Coca-Cola’s logo as well.’
Those of you who know the previous iteration of the Angel and Crown might be surprised to see the once ‘notorious’ pub, which was shut for antisocial behaviour nearly two years ago, now gracing the same advertising space as Coca-Cola.
Keogh bought the pub in Globe Town after its closure and since reopening it last December she has been working hard to turn the Angel and Crown from a place of disrepute to an inclusive hub with drag nights. She says that her campaign was likely chosen because of her story of trying to change the pub’s old reputation.
‘Basically, I just told them what I was trying to do with the Angel and Crown. I’ve been working really hard since December to show people that this is a place where families can come in, where you can have a coffee. It’s not just about booze.’
So notorious was the old pub’s reputation, she still has trouble shedding it, which Keogh hopes the Coca-Cola ad might change.
‘People still think it’s the old pub,’ she says. ‘I still overhear customers saying things like, “I never would have thought to come here before.”’
The Angel and Crown retains the trappings of an unpretentious, East End boozer with traditional dark wood furnishings. But if you’ve never been inside the old pub, it is difficult to imagine how its old iteration might have been, sitting among the welcoming plants and drag quiz night posters.
Ultimately, the family-friendly aspect of Coca-Cola’s brand is why she was attracted to this campaign when she found out about it through one of her product suppliers in the summer.
‘I just really want people to know that this place is for families, people to have a coffee, everyone. And being attached to the brand might hopefully make people realise that.’
Interestingly, it was lockdown that actually went part of the way to help local people embrace its new image.
‘Local people who live here who may not have necessarily come to the old pub. During lockdown, they were walking around more and discovering more local places. I guess people were taking their one walk a day and they came across here,’ she says.
‘But our businesses went back down again once things opened up a bit because people just went back to the city.’
Now, amid anxiety about rising cases and a whole new set of restrictions to navigate, she says she hopes this campaign will help continue to encourage more people to drop by Angel and Crown.
‘We can’t predict how customers might behave,’ she says. ‘But hopefully this will give us a boost.’
If you liked this article, you might also like to read about that time when Luminor took over the front page of Time Out magazine. Or you might like to learn more about Melise Keogh and Angel and Crown.
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