It is crucial community pub companies like Hawthorn can resume bar service on 21 June, due to the economic and social cost of table service, CEO Mark Davies has told MCA.

Speaking after the release of financial results from parent company NewRiver, Davies said despite the difficult year, Hawthorn had performed well when allowed to trade, with like-for-like sales in its leased and tenanted estate only marginally down on 2019.

But he said though Hawthorn’s 700-strong estate was able to trade well with table service, the restriction was inefficient and not in the spirit of a community pub operation.

He told MCA: “We can do table service well, but a community pub is all about social interaction and meeting people - friends, family, neighbours.

“The problem is it removes that connection point you get from standing at the bar and ordering. It’s not as efficient when you’re sat at a table, there’s no doubt that’s having negative impact on our trading performance.

“Our headlines since reopening are good. But at some point the pent-up demand we’ve seen will stabilise and settle at a sustainable level, and to compensate we need to be able to trade unrestricted, people need to be able to stand up and order from the bar and do the things that people miss and desire.”

Davies said he was pleased with the company’s performance so far, with the community pubs benefiting from people staying local, though he added he was “not getting too carried away”.

“There’s definitely a message of ‘one swallow doesn’t make a summer’. We’ve clearly done better than we expected, but we’re trying to just keep our feet on the ground.”

With unrestricted trading, and a calendar of big sporting events, the pub trade could have a “really good summer”.

Hawthorn is looking to float as a standalone business, and during its recent IPO roadshow has seen “over 20 high-quality blue-chip institutions”.

Davies said NewRiver’s divestment of Hawthorn would allow it to concentrate on opportunities to acquire distressed retail at “outstanding prices”.

He added: “There are some amazing opportunities in the UK retail sector, because it’s quite distressed, and there are obvious acquisition opportunities that the retail team here can go after

“By divesting its investment in Hawthorn NewRiver can redeploy that money into other really interesting, accretive opportunities.”