Bosses at a pub targeted by arsonists last night have vowed to push ahead with plans to re-open it.
The Briar Dene pub, on the Links in Whitley Bay, closed earlier this year for refurbishment work to begin.
But emergency crews were called to the venue at 9.45pm on Tuesday, August 18, after reports of a fire.
Two crews from Tynemouth plus one each from Wallsend and Hebburn spent 90 minutes tackling the blaze.
The former bar area was completely destroyed by fire while the rest of the ground floor, plus first floor and basement, was damaged by smoke.
An arson investigation has been launched.
However, the fire has delayed plans by pub chain Sir John Fitzgerald to re-open the pub in the immediate future.
A company spokesperson said: “We would like to thank local residents who witnessed the attack which started the fire. As a company we are devastated, however this will not stop the refurbishment but delays your pub returning to you, our loyal customers.
“We are fortunate that the residential property above was empty or this would have been a very different story.”
A spokesperson for Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service said: “The fire is suspected to have been maliciously ignited.”
A police spokesperson said: “Enquiries are being carried out after a fire at Briar Dene Pub Hotel in Whitley Bay.
“It’s thought the fire was started deliberately and it is being treated as arson.
“The fire is believed to have been started between 9pm and 9.49pm on Tuesday, August 18.
Any witnesses should contact police on 101 ext 69191 quoting referenece 1060 190815.