ENTERPRISE Inns, Britain’s second biggest pub company, said yesterday it was raising the level of support it gives to struggling tenants after the number of closures across its estate rose by 50 per cent.<br /><br />Enterprise, which has around 7,500 leased and tenanted pubs, said it had increased the assistance, which is given through rent concessions and product discounts, to around £1.7m from £1.4m a month.<br /><br />Chief executive Ted Tuppen yesterday blamed the increase partly on recent beer duty hikes.<br /><br />“When the price of beer goes up because the government has increased beer duty by 20 per cent this year, there’s a greater need to help licensees in price-sensitive areas. We have special packages to enable them to sell beer more cheaply,” he said.<br /><br />Around 800 tenants are currently receiving the help under the company’s Business Recovery Scheme.<br /><br />Enterprise said the increased level of support for licensees had reduced the rate of business failures, but added they are still occurring at a rate of around 50 per cent ahead of last year and are costing close to £2m a month in lost income.<br /><br />“We would normally expect 200 pubs a year to fail. We’re looking at maybe 300 now,” said Tuppen.<br /><br />“A failure generally means a pub is going to be shut for four to six months. It’s an expensive process. We reckon it costs us in the region of £50,000 per pub.”<br /><br />Enterprise has undertaken a disposal programme as it grapples with debt of around £3.5bn and has a £1bn facility due for renewal in May 2011. The group said it has sold 277 pubs so far in the current financial year for a total of £84m.