The first thing a visitor might notice about The Blind Beggar pub, located on Whitechapel Road in London's East End, is the color red. Everything in the interior is shaded a deep blood red: the ceiling, the walls, even the lightbulbs emit an eerie crimson glow. Perhaps the color harkens back to the pub's infamous past when the East End was a haven for the powerful mobsters of the 1950s and 1960s and The Blind Beggar was the site of one of the most famous murders in modern British history.
On March 9, 1966, Ronnie Kray, a notorious East End gangster, walked into the pub and saw rival South London mobster George Cornell having a drink. Kray strode straight up to Cornell, pulled out a gun, and shot his unsuspecting victim straight through the head. Though the pub was full of patrons, initially not one was willing to give evidence against Kray, such was the power that he and his twin brother Reggie held over the East End in the 1960s.
But eventually someone squealed and Ronnie Kray was given a 30-years-to-life sentence for the Blind Beggar murder. His brother was locked away for another killing that took place shortly after. But in prison the twins' celebrity only grew. There was a Kray musical by Snoo Wilson, Kray t-shirts, a Krays film in 1990, more than 20 books and even Kray boxer shorts.
The Blind Beggar was not always attached to such disreputable activities. In 1865, William Booth, a Methodist minister, was preaching outside the pub—two missioners heard him speaking and invited Booth to lead a series of meetings nearby. The Salvation Army, with Booth as its founder, was born.
In modern times, the pub has also garnered interest from rough-and-tumblers of a different sort: private equity real estate firms. In September 1997, the pub was acquired by Nomura Principal Finance Group, then run by London financier Guy Hands, as part of a portfolio of pubs called Inntrepreneur. In 2002, Hands' outfit, rebranded as Terra Firma, sold the business to Enterprise Inns Plc, the UK's largest pub landlord, doubling their money in the deal. Kray would have been proud.
Today, the Blind Beggar's seedy history makes it a popular destination for crime buffs who want to explore the favorite haunts of London's gangland. Patrons can buy hats, shirts and lighters with the pub's logo emblazoned or enjoy the quiche of the day for £5. It's also a popular starting point for the Monopoly Pub Crawl, which involves visiting drinking establishments on the streets that appear in the London version of the popular board game.
Now the Blind Beggar is up for sale on a 30-year lease at a reported asking price of £125,000. The pub's infamous past may help it fetch more than the asking price—and, given the amount of buyout activity in the pub world, the suitor could possibly be another private equity real estate firm.