The UK’s biggest pub chain could soon go bust

It's currently over £2 billion in debt

Annie McNamee
Written by
Annie McNamee
Contributor, Time Out London and UK
An image of a slug and lettuce hanging sign
Photograph: Shutterstock

The UK high street is, to put it lightly, struggling a little bit. Body ShopBootsWilko — countless institutions are closing or downsizing every month, unable to keep up with things costing more and people spending less. It isn’t just retail, hospitality has been feeling the pinch too. And the next chain to go could be Stonegate, which owns more than 4000 pubs and bars across the UK.

In short, it's got a lot of debt. It owes more money than most of us will ever see in our entire lives, with the current debt balance sitting at around £2.2 billion. Hopefully that makes you feel a little better about being £100 in your overdraft. 

The group, who own popular chains like Slug and Lettuce and Be at One, stated in a recent account filing that there was a chance it ‘may be unable to realise their assets and discharge their liabilities in the normal course of business.’ Basically, they’ve run out of money, and there might not be a way to fix it without outside help.

If the operator were to go bust, more than 19,000 jobs would be at risk, but the company’s CEO remains hopeful. He said he is, ‘really pleased with the performance of the business in 2023,’ and that a successful 2023 Christmas period, ‘gives [him] real confidence in the future and excitement in seeing our strategy come to fruition’.

Hopefully Stonegate will find a way to work out their shortcomings, because losing them would be the biggest blow to the hen night industry since inflatable phallic objects went out of fashion.

Keeping up with the high street

As you probably know, this is only the latest in a long line of stores being forced to reduce their high street presence. We at Time Out have all the details on the biggest high street closures with our complete guide here.

Did you see that a Yorkshire Dales edition of Monopoly has been released?

Plus: TUI could be relaunching flights at this abandoned airport

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