Half of south Wales' pubs could disappear within five years, according to research for BBC Wales Week In Week Out.
A mix of the smoking ban, alcohol taxes and the recession are being blamed.
The Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) said it estimates five pubs close each week.
David Morgan, an expert on pub economics claimed the situation was being made worse by pub companies who charge landlords too much for rent and beer.
"You see these old style social centres just completely disappearing and that's what I call meltdown," he said.
"I think you can see in certain valley communities and larger towns up to half the pubs completely disappearing within five years," he added.
The Sportsman in Nefyn, Gwynedd closed two weeks ago.
Its landlord, Harvey Garlington, said: "Upsetting's the wrong word. It leaves you feeling empty.
"You put on things, like discos, karaoke and everything, and you get a handful of people turn up - they just can't afford to come out."
About half of Britain's pubs are now owned by large pub companies, which are currently being investigated by a parliamentary committee.
At Skewen, near Neath, nine of the town's 11 pubs are owned by a single pub company.
A rival company said it aims to settle any complaints in an amicable and efficient way.
More pubs are expected to close in a traditional post-Christmas slump in custom.
Mr Morgan said: "We already had some absolute tragedies, even some suicides.
"The last thing you do when you are the hub of the community is own up to the fact you having handouts from your own family.
"Some landlords are completely on the skids."
Week In Week Out is on BBC One Wales at 2235 GMT on Tuesday 27 January.