Popular Waihi Beach restaurant The Porch has been damaged badly by fire only three weeks after it was sold to new owners.
"It is a huge blow. It could not have happened at a worse time," co-owner Pat Gibson said in the aftermath of Saturday morning's blaze, which left the bar and cafe area a charred mess.
Mr Gibson and partner Kirsty Campbell were looking forward to a busy summer's trade but it now looked like they would be lucky to be back in business by the New Year.
A security guard investigating an alarm spotted the glow and alerted the Fire Service, which dispatched engines from Waihi and Waihi Beach at 12.45am.
It was the second fire to hit Waihi Beach in four days and followed the extinguishing of a potentially disastrous fire in the kitchen of the town's Caltex service station.
Mr Gibson, who runs a Te Awamutu-based building company while his partner has been running The Porch, said the fire had been a body blow. "We have had to put on a brave face all day" he told the Bay of Plenty Times yesterday.
The couple had received huge support from the town. "We are newbies, but now we almost feel like locals. The people of Waihi Beach have been fantastic," he said.
Mr Gibson was now focusing on fixing the damage, which would include rebuilding a structural wall and perhaps the roof in the bar area. He expected the work would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Although he had a team of builders who could begin work tomorrow, he feared red tape will hold things up. "I know the process they [the council] have to go through. That will be the hard yards for me. If certain people were sympathetic, we could be open by New Year's Day," he said. He hoped to piggyback the repairs on a permit lodged with the council to extend the kitchen.
Neighbouring shop Molly's Essentials was affected by smoke, but after a huge effort by its owners it opened for business yesterday.
Co-owner Steve Davies said the focus was now on helping The Porch.
Mr Davies said the award-winning restaurant was in the hub of the village and a huge drawcard for locals and visitors.
"We need it up and running as quickly as possible. It is not going to be good without it."
He said the village relied on The Porch and he hoped officials would sort out the paperwork as quickly as possible to allow the rebuild to begin.
Waihi Beach fire chief Ian Smith said the fire alert came through just as the brigade was preparing to leave to extinguish a bonfire on Bowentown Beach.
The seat of The Porch's fire was in the bar area and it had taken less than 15 minutes to bring the flames under control.