Hawthorn, the NewRiver-owned community pub company, more than doubled its planned CAPEX spend for the third quarter, and added an extra 61 sites to its investment programme.

In the group’s latest financial update, CEO Mark Davies said Hawthorn Leisure remains “bullish” about the role community pubs will play post-lockdown. The business invested a total of £9.4m on 270 projects in Q3 – increasing average spend by almost 60% - leaving approximately £250m of cash and available liquidity, plus additional funds to access when required.

With a focus on outdoor scheme’s and creating more capacity, Hawthorn invested in 86% of its portfolio in the last lockdown, and has since resumed its projects.

Though all of its pubs remain closed due to lockdown restrictions, the group’s engagement and support has generated a 87% retention rate for pub partners who were tenants at 31 March 2020.

It has completed £2.7m of non-core pub disposals since 30 September 2020, which it said “further demonstrates liquidity and confidence in the long-term prospects of community pubs as an asset class.”

“We remain bullish about the role that community pubs will play in people’s lives once lockdown is lifted,” said Davies. “We urge the Government to provide us with a clear roadmap for reopening, and ensure significantly more financial support is urgently prioritised, particularly on business rates and Vat to ensure these vital community establishments can survive.”

For its third quarter ending 31 December 2020, NewRiver was on course to meet its target disposals of £80 million to £100 million of assets in the financial year. It had £135m in cash reserves, and a total available liquidity of £233m.