A statement from NewRiver explained: “As an owner and operator of community assets throughout the UK, NewRiver has experienced, first hand, the very significant impact that the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has had on people across the country.
“NewRiver has also seen the extraordinary contributions made by our teams, customers, occupiers, advisers and other stakeholders, to support those who are most in need.
“In recognition of these circumstances, NewRiver is announcing that its board of directors will be waiving 20% of their base salaries or fees for three months effective from 1 May 2020, which will be donated to NewRiver’s corporate charity partner, the Trussell Trust.”
The charity currently supports more than 1,200 food banks across the UK while campaigning to ensure everyone can afford their own food.
It has been widely reported that food bank usage has increased during the Covid-19 outbreak hit the UK, with The Belfast Telegraph reporting that one food bank in Northern Ireland’s capital had quadrupled its output while Lincolnshire Live revealed that use had increased by 350% in Lincoln, for example.
As both Hawthorn Leisure’s chief executive officer and NewRiver’s chief financial officer, Mark Davies, is the only member of the real estate investment trust’s pub arm who will forgo salary in aid of the Trussell Trust.
Coping with Covid-19
As part of its strategy to weather the Covid-19 pandemic, Hawthorn Leisure announced on 25 March that it would defer rent and all associated charges with immediate effect for its leased and tenanted pubs – which represents around 90% of its business – and issue financial support for its operator-managed sites.
The operator has also placed 70% of its staff on furlough leave.
What’s more, according to a statement issued on 19 March, NewRiver estimated the Government’s decision to issue a business rates holiday could net its pub portfolio a seven-figure saving.
It read: “The occupiers across our retail and community pub portfolios also stand to benefit from the measures announced by the UK Government on 17 March, giving all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England a 100% business rates holiday for the next 12 months, and providing £25,000 grants to businesses in the same sectors with rateable values between £15,000 and £51,000.
“Almost all our community pubs have a rateable value below £51,000, so this will provide further indirect benefit to our portfolio, and NewRiver’s own business rates bill across its community pubs portfolio will be reduced by £1m.”
Additionally, on 1 April, the operator announced the creation of a dedicated operator-managed division under the remit of new director Mark Brooke, who joined Hawthorn from Ei Group where he ran the pubco’s Beacon division.
In November 2019, Hawthorn CFO Matthew Ward told The Morning Advertiser (MA) the operator was hoping to grow its managed business to around 15% of its portfolio.
The acquisition of 29 Marston’s pubs by Hawthorn in January 2020 saw its estate pass the 700-pub mark after a £17.9m deal for Bravo Inns – the operator of 44 wet-led community pubs predominantly located in north-west England – in December 2019 grew its stable to 698 sites.