A TOWN centre pub is being sold because it is selling up to 30 per cent less booze than its sister bars in the same chain.

The Groves Company Inn in Fleet Street has been chosen by JD Wetherspoon as one of 34 UK sites to be sold off.

The pubs, which have an estimated value of up to £40m, have gone on the market less than a week after Wetherspoons warned of a second year of falling profits due to higher staffing costs.

The fire sale is the biggest since Wetherspoons was founded 36 years ago and includes the Trafalgar, Portsmouth, and the Society Room, Glasgow.

The pub operator has appointed adviser CBRE to handle the sale of the 34 pubs.

Groves was opened in 2001 in the former Crisco carpet showroom in Fleet Street.

The £900,000 pub was part of a drive by JD to open 1,000 new sites across the country.

It is believed Groves has been selected in Swindon ahead of The Savoy in Regent Street and Sir Daniel Arms down the road because it cannot compete with their sales.

Chairman Tim Martin said: “Every five to 10 years we go through a process of disposing of pubs.

“This is not a anxiety sale, ahead of the Living Wage being introduced next year.

“It is a periodic review of the portfolio. The pubs we are selling average 20 to 30 per cent less sales than other Wetherspoon pubs.”

In July the company said it was disposing of 20 leasehold pubs, but 27 of the latest 34 are either freehold or long leasehold and have a combined turnover of £38m with average weekly sales per pub of more than £22,000.

Stonegate Pub Company, the second biggest high street operator after Wetherspoons, is favourite to buy the pubs.

The firm has also scaled back its opening of new pubs to just 15.

The disposals, coupled with a scaled-back new pub openings target of 15 pubs, mean this will be the first time Wetherspoons has ended the year with fewer pubs than it started with.

Paul Breen, senior director of CBRE’s specialist markets team, said: “The portfolio represents a rare opportunity to acquire substantial high volume businesses which have seen sales growth in each of the last five years.

“Food sales represent more than a third of total sales, having increased by 40 per cent over this period, which makes the pubs ideally positioned to benefit from the continued growth in eating outside of the home.

“We anticipate strong interest from existing operators and new entrants keen to create a platform which can be used to build a successful managed estate.”