Brewer and pub operator Adnams has warned trading conditions for UK tenanted pubs have "deteriorated significantly" since April.
It said that pubs had been hit hard by "declining consumer confidence, rising input costs, the effects of the smoking ban and the impact of the penal increase in duty rates".
The company, which sells 93% of its on-trade beer outside its 80-strong pub estate, said that in the five months to the end of May beer sales had fallen 6% compared with a fall of 10.4% in industry-wide ale volumes.
Adnams said profits for the year would be significantly below those of last year, particularly given increasing raw material costs associated with brewing.
Jonathan Adnams, executive chairman at Adnams, said: "Our confidence in the future remains strong, though current trading conditions are undoubtedly the most difficult in recent years and may well get worse before the market recovers."
Read more news on the smoking ban go to www.caterersearch.com/smokingban
By Christopher Walton
E-mail your comments to Christopher Walton here.