‘We didn’t want it to turn into more flats’. The Queen’s Head re-opens with big ambitions to be a traditional community pub
Walking into the Queen’s Head shortly after it reopened, the smell of fresh paint still hung in the air. As one of the new managers said the pub is still a work in progress. However, their dedication to returning the Queen’s Head to its former glory is inescapable. The hard work they have put in is clear for all to see.
Sitting at the edge of York Square in Limehouse, this traditional Victorian corner pub has long been rumoured to be one of the inspirations for the television series EastEnders. From the outside, there are certainly similarities to The Queen Vic.
Around 200 years old and a Grade II listed building, there is a storied history to The Queen’s Head. The famous photo of the Queen Mother pulling a pint that can be seen in pubs across the UK was taken here.
The pub’s more recent history has been a little less storied. The lease was sold off by Tower Hamlets Council in 2013. In the following years, there were several close calls when the pub almost closed.
Despite this, it managed to stay open until 2021. Then it finally lost its license after two years of noise complaints from local residents and claims of skirting COVID-19 guidelines during the pandemic.
It re-opened early in 2023, but closed again when the new landlord threw in the towel after just a couple of months.
The current new management team re-opened the pub yet again in December 2023, hopefully for the final time.
The new team behind The Queen’s Head includes Tyler, Christopher, Paula, and Kirsty amongst others. They all have their own connections to the pub that made taking it over such a meaningful step. Some have lived in the area. Some have worked in the area. All have memories of the pub.
Paula’s links to The Queen’s Head are a perfect example. She first stepped into the pub in 2014 when viewing a house on nearby Matlock Street. With time to kill before the estate agent arrived, she stepped into the Queen’s Head for a half pint. Almost a decade later, she is now excited to be part of the team aiming to ‘revitalise the pub and bring it back to the community where it belongs.’
To move away from the pub’s previous problems and place the local community at the centre has been one of their main goals. The pub is not ‘just about the sale of alcohol’.
They also want ‘to make this a community hall. A place that people can go where they can be warm, where they can make friends.’
This started before the official opening on December 8th. That was the date advertised online and on social media. However, flyers had been given out and doors knocked on in the streets just around the Queen’s Head advertising an opening just for the local community the day before.
The secret community opening was the new management’s way to involve the local community and show them everything that had been done.
‘It was great. It exceeded our expectations.’
‘We were expecting maybe 20-30 people to come over to sit down and have a nice quiet chat with them. We probably had 200 people. It was great, honestly just exceeded all expectations. We had such a good response and we were just appreciative to be able to finally meet all of our neighbours.’
There are more plans to centre the pub in the community. Inviting lonely people to the pub on Christmas Day for dinner, a warm hub during winter, and days specifically for mothers to come with their children.
There is still a lot to be done. The next big goal is re-opening the kitchens and getting Sunday roasts back on the menu. However, even since opening in early December too now, the difference is already notable. A new flag flutters in the wind outside the pub, lights have been added to illuminate the exterior at night, and new drinks have been added. The pub’s gallery, a room dedicated to artwork by local artists and historical pictures of the pub, has taken shape.
The new team are feeling confident about the future, and the work they have done is clearly paying off. As one of the new team proudly shared with me, customers who avoided the pub under its previous owners are already starting to come back.
If you enjoyed this article why not read: The Gun: traditional British food in an excellent environment at this riverside pub
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