Hundreds of popular UK pubs could close down in the near future as the industry continues to struggle in a post-Covid world.
You might not have heard of Stonegate Pub Co, or its owner, private equity firm TDR Capital, for that matter.
But there's no doubt you'll know the name Slug and Lettuce.
The chain that's synonymous with cheap meals and cocktail deals was bought out by Stonegate just a few years back for a whopping £1.3 billion, only to bit hit by the pandemic.
From lengthy lockdowns to the cost of living crisis, the company has struggled to stay afloat, leaving it with an eye-watering £2.6 billion debt pile.
Alongside the former Slug and Lettuce owner Ei Group, Stonegate has acquired a number of businesses over the years.
It is now the UK's largest pub company, and is behind a whole range of popular bar and pub brands that'll no doubt bring back some embarrassing drunken memories, including Yates's, Popworld and Walkabout.
With such a whopping debt, a source told Bloomberg that the firm is considering plans to sell off 1,000 of its 4,500 pubs for an estimated £800 million.
Just like the wider hospitality sector, Stonegate has experienced a hit to its finances due to what's been described as a 'perfect storm' of unfortunate circumstances.
We're all painfully aware of rising inflation in the UK, including energy and food prices, as well as a staff shortage following Brexit.
With the cost of living crisis showing no sign of slowing, many customers are taking to drinking at home, leaving pubs and restaurants struggling.
Speaking about the situation in an interview, Stonegate's chairman Ian Payne explained: "The biggest concern is energy.
"We know what we’re going to pay in February and March, but we still don’t know what we’re going to pay beyond that."
Back in October, JD Wetherspoon boss Tim Martin said the pub chain could be under threat too as people have realised there are cheaper ways to drink.
Martin said his company, which has almost 900 pubs across the UK, had a 'momentous challenge' on its hands to tempt customers back after lockdown, while admitting it hasn't made a profit since the pandemic.
"During lockdown, dyed-in-the-wool pub-goers, many for the first time, filled their fridges with supermarket beer – and it has proved to be a momentous challenge to persuade them to return to the more salubrious environment of the saloon bar," he said.
Martin's comments arrived shortly after it was revealed that Wetherspoon is looking to sell off 32 of its pubs in a bid to aide recovery.
In short, the outlook is bleak for lovers of cheap pints right now.
LADbible has contacted Stonegate for comment.Featured Image Credit: Tripadvisor/Matthiola/Alamy Stock Photo