Pub companies claim they are willing to work with licensees to help steer them through the troubled waters currently washing through the trade.
Floods of licensees have been contacting The Publican with tales of woe as the tough financial climate, rising costs and the smoking ban continue to cause major headaches.
Rumours of scores of licensees handing their keys back since the new year have been denied by a number of pubcos, but the outlook still remains bleak.
While not all responded, several leading pubcos contacted by The Publican said they were trying to help their tenants and lessees.
David Elliott, managing director of Greene King Pub Partners, admitted it was a "challenging time" for some licensees but added: "If we concentrate on working on our business we can take advantage of the opportunities out there."
Nigel Turpin, corporate affairs director at Punch Taverns, said the company was responding to requests for help whenever it was asked for.
"It's not about giving blanket rent reductions," he added. "It's about business relationship managers sitting down with licensees, discussing their business and how we can improve it."
Meanwhile, Lynne D'Arcy, joint managing director at Admiral Taverns, said: "We do look at offering rent concessions, sometimes related to capex investments, but in some cases people need to look at how they are running their pubs too. We don't offer this across the board, but neither do we want closed pubs.
"We've had a handful of tenants handing back their keys. It's not been a stampede."
Enterprise Inns said recently it was aware of how tough the current market is, but was determined to work closely with its licensees. The company said it would support "those who are genuinely struggling, despite their best efforts, to deal with adverse market conditions".
Martyn Gray, commercial director at Scottish & Newcastle Pub Enterprises, said: "If trade is down we'll talk about the commercial terms [of the lease] going forward. Trends-wise, we are seeing beer volumes down and pubs with food doing better."
Licensee Carole Nixon of the Crown and Anchor in Jarrow, Tyne & Wear - a Trust Inns lease - said it had been "very tough" in the last few months.
"It's dead around here at nights," she said. "Some places shut at 8pm during the week and we shut at 10pm because people are choosing to stay at home and drink a few cans. But I'm not giving up without a fight."
At the Crown Inn in Stafford licensee Wayne Massey - an Enterprise lessee - said it had been a "nightmare" coping with rent payments.
"We are a summer pub and we didn't have a summer so it's been tough," he said. "A reduction in the prices we have to pay for beer would help a lot of people out."
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