A union has raised concerns that Stonegate pubs, including The Cother Arms, Walkabout, Slug and Lettuce, The Rifle Volunteer, and The Horns, are at risk.

GMB warned that venues owned by pub chain, which has a major presence in Watford, could face an uncertain future as owner TDR Capital seeks to refinance £2.6 billion in debt.

Although TDR boss Gary Lindsay told MPs he was “confident” the company could be refinanced this year, the union has suggested that these refinances could result in crippling payments to service the debt.

Stonegate is one of the largest pub companies in the UK, with more than 4,500 pubs and more than 19,000 workers. It owns major brands like Slug and Lettuce, Popworld, and Walkabout, but is also involved with more than 1,000 one-off locals.

Around Watford this includes The Red Lion, The Cother Arms, The Prince George, The Rifle Volunteer, and The Horns.

In the past two years, Stonegate has relaunched The Cother Arms (formerly The Wishing Well) and The Horns after closure, and found new owners for The Rifle Volunteer.

Watford Observer: The Cother Arms.The Cother Arms. (Image: Stephen Danzig)

GMB Southern regional secretary Justin Bowden said: “The position with the Stonegate Pub Company’s finances is lacking in transparency, with the ultimate holding company based in the Cayman Islands.

“TDR Capital must be accountable to local people and they have a duty to safeguard the 650 local pubs which are vital community assets.

“GMB’s experience with private equity owners has been, and continues to be, wholly negative.”

Watford Observer: The HornsThe Horns (Image: Watford Observer Camera Club/Vlad Dan)

In response to the union’s claims, a spokesman for Stonegate Pub Company said: “We continue to invest in our pubs and our people, in particular supporting local pubs which play such a key role in their communities.

“Our pub business remains very resilient despite the challenges our industry faces, with good like-for-like sales growth across the group.

“Following our recent successful financing announced in December as well as strong recent trading, we are well placed to deliver on our longer-term objectives and we are very confident in our ability to refinance at the appropriate time.”