Unwins, one of the UK's biggest off-licence chains, has been hit by increasing pressure from supermarkets as the grocery sector becomes more dominant in beer and wine retailing.
The directors of group, which has traded since 1843, lodged a formal application to place the companies in administration on Monday, while a rescue plan is formed.
The business was acquired by DM Private Equity in March for£32 million. Since then, executive chairman Phillip Cook has been trying to force through the restructuring of the business including the reduction of stock in stores.
It is understood directors have held talks with possible administrators should the application succeed, including business restructuring specialist Kroll's.