Celebrating 15 years of East London’s Unique Electric Star Pubs

By Susanna Borio

The Electric Star Pubs, first founded in 2008 by Rob Star and Steve Marci with the opening of the Star of Bethnal Green, have become a prominent feature of East London, breathing new life into historic pubs and venues.

Each site brings its own unique, distinct character, with quality music, food, drink and great events. Since their opening they have opened seven new venues, the most recent being the Star in Shoreditch, which will see the Roadtrip transformed into THE late-night cocktail spot.

This April 15th, celebrate 15 years of Electric Star Pubs by joining their pub crawl across all 8 locations.

They provide a ‘suggested’ route, participants are free to visit the sites in any order. You will be given a card to be stamped at each pub, getting your last drink free.

A night filled with drag palm reading, karaoke, free party extras from each pub, and medals to collect to add a fun competitive edge.

We had the pleasure of speaking with founder Rob Star about the monumental celebration.

15 years is an incredible achievement, let’s start from the begining: You were putting on warehouse parties in Hackney Wick, how did the idea of the Electric Star Pubs come about?

That’s right, we used to do parties in a place called the EQ Warehouse, just down the road from The Lord Napier.

It got demolished when they built the Olympic Stadium and at the time, I was looking to buy a nightclub. I very nearly bought a place called The Rhythm Factory in Whitechapel, but the deal fell through at the last minute and I decided to buy a pub with a late license, down the road in Bethnal Green.

That pub was called The Pleasure Unit, despite the risqué sounding name, it was actually a gig venue that bands like The Libertines used to play in.

The place was falling to bits and needed a lot of work (costing far much more than I ever anticipated), but we got it open and people seemed to like it.

We never had a masterplan to open several pubs, but I teamed up with Steve Macri early on (who is now operations Director and a partner with me in the business) and things slowly built from there.

You have to know where your strengths are and mine was making sure the place was busy, while he made sure they could get a great drink (we make a good partnership).

The next pub in Kings Cross followed a few years later and slowly but surely we built up a little group, we’re totally independent, nobody has invested stacks of money, we don’t want to be the next Wetherspoons, we’re just happy bringing rundown and derelict pubs back to life and trying to make sure we can earn a couple of quid while we’re doing it.

Did you ever imagine it would become such a prominent part of London’s pub scene?

I come from a background as a promoter, so I wanted people to come to the pub for events, whether that was a DJ, Live Music, a quiz night, a food event, wine tasting, etc.

This was also a necessity, as when we first opened, a lot of our pubs were off the beaten track (we’ve opened a lot of our sites before the areas they are in have become more popular), so we had to bring the people to us.

We also had a strong idea of what we wanted the pubs to be like – It seems weird now, but 15 years ago, you didn’t have many pubs that opened late, had a great sound system (all of our pubs have funktion one sound systems) and also served great food and drinks.

It seems like such a simple formula, but very often one or more of these elements was missing. Even though all of our pubs are related, they are very different, they have a core theme running through them, but they have a different look and feel depending on where they are based, which reflects the clientele that live or work in the area.

I think, as with any business, if you love what you do and are constantly trying to refine and improve your offer, you will eventually have some success

What do you think has been the most rewarding aspect?

We have a saying in our business that ‘It’s the people that make the pubs’. That goes for the people that come and eat food and drink with us, as well as those that serve them.

For a pub to work, you need all of these people and nothing gives me more pleasure than walking into one of our pubs on a busy Saturday nightwhen everyone is enjoying themselves.

In one corner, you might have a few locals catching up over a pint, upstairs there might be a 40th birthday in one room and some kids in their 20’s doing karaoke in another. By the end of the night, they can all be on the dance floor with the DJ.  

It’s also great to see people progress through the ranks in our business, lots of people have started with us as a member of the bar team and gone on to be General Managers, I think it’s really important that people entering our industry see working in hospitality as a rewarding career path.

Lots of the street food partners that we work with to run our kitchens have also gone on to set up their own restaurants as well, which is also great to see.

What can people expect from the celebration of this great milestone on the 15th?

Lots of free stuff!

We are starting at The Star of Kings between midday and 1pm, where everyone will get a goodie bag with a limited edition cap, some snacks, free booze and some water to stay hydrated (very important).

We will be giving away something free in all of 8 of our pubs, this varies from free drinks (obviously) to food from our kitchen partners, a mass karaoke in our Liverpool Street site and drag palm reading in Bethnal Green.

We will also have DJ’s, a sweepstake for The Grand National and a commemorative medal for everyone that makes it round all 8 pubs.

Join Rob on the Pub Crawl this Saturday the 15th!

Follow Electric Star Pubs on Instagram to keep up with their exciting events.

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