A new £25,000 pub beer garden has been destroyed in a suspected arson attack a day before the venue was due to reopen.
Police and firefighters were called to the White Horse in Tea Green, near Luton, Hertfordshire, at around 8.30am on Wednesday.
Complete with a children’s play area and fire pit, the outdoor space had been designed for family celebrations and wedding receptions, many of which were postponed during lockdown.
Hertfordshire Constabulary told Sky News the area had "suffered substantial damage" by the time officers arrived at the scene.
It is believed the fire was started deliberately at around 1am and is being treated as arson, the force said.
A message on the pub’s Facebook page described it as a "heart breaking experience" and said it had been overwhelmed by public support.
Landlord Jon Haines told Sky News the space had been booked out until July, with the grand opening scheduled for Thursday.
While the pub will still be welcoming customers to their other outdoor areas, Mr Haines said the loss of the "secret garden" would cost around £2,000 a day in lost revenue.
He added he was "devastated" and "cannot believe who would do this after pubs have already suffered in the pandemic".
The fire is being investigated by police and any witnesses or anyone with information is asked to call 101, quoting crime reference 41/26964/21, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.