The company behind Slug and Lettuce and Be At One has revealed plans to sell off 1,000 of its pubs, dealing a fresh blow for UK boozers and putting thousands of jobs at risk. Stonegate Group, which operates both bar chains, is looking to put hundreds of its pubs on the market after acquiring £2.6million in debt, according to Bloomberg.
Stonegate said its “biggest concern” right now was the rocketing cost of energy. The firm has admitted it is unsure how it will pay its energy bills from April, when the Government is set to scale back for support for businesses.
It’s a sharp turnaround for the firm, which became the UK’s biggest pub group after spending nearly £1.3 billion buying rival EiGroup, which already boasted around 5,000 pubs. Now Stonegate is set to sell off 1,000 of its pubs, more than a fifth of the total it owns, for around £800 million.
It comes after Wetherspoons announced in late 2022 it would sell off 42 of its pubs in major cities including London, Liverpool and Southampton. The chain has previously warned it could lose up to £30m after recently investing in repairs and staff wages.
Wetherspoons boss Tim Martin said the decision was due to lack of staff along with rising energy and food costs. 10 of the 42 pubs the firm put up for sale have already been sold off.
In an interview Stonegate’s chairman, Ian Payne, said: “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.”
Most pubs across the UK are feeling the pinch. Customer numbers are dropping due to the cost of living crisis, while beer and food costs have spiked due to high inflation rates.
It is not currently known which sites will be put up for sale by Stonegate, or how many jobs are at risk.