A beer garden at a local pub near Luton has been destroyed in a suspected arson attack - just one day before it was due to reopen after national lockdown.
The £25,000 installation at the White Horse in Tea Green in Hertfordshire included a fire pit and a children's play area, and had been redesigned for celebrations such as wedding receptions post lockdown.
The new covid compliant outdoor area was damaged in a suspected arson attack
Hertfordshire Constabulary have said that the fire is thought to have been started deliberately at around 1am, and is being treated as arson.
The pubs Facebook page has described the incident as 'heartbreaking' after investing time and money in making the outdoor space covid compliant.
A fundraising page has since been set up to rebuild the space, and had raised more than £5,000 at the time of writing.
Writing on the pubs Facebook page, manager Jon Haines said that some customers had been able to have a 'sneak peak' of the new outdoor area just days before it was damaged.
'The team has worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to support the local community with home deliveries,' he wrote.
'We were the first to launch feed me local, supply meals to front line workers and food supplies to local food banks using profits from our customers orders.
'In the last few months we have invested over £25k and thousands of hours of work into creating a new covid secure outdoor space to serve our customers post lock down.'
Pubs and restaurants reopened for outdoor service on Monday as part of Prime Minister Boris Johnson's roadmap out of lockdown.
Around £25,000 had been spent by the White Horse on ensuring the area was social distanced
Non-essential retail shops, as well as personal care premises, hairdressers and nail salons, libraries, gyms, zoos and theme parks also reopened, with wider social distancing rules carried forward.
It is the second step in the four part plan, which will see England out of lockdown by June 21.
Step one, which included schools reopening, one to one social meetings outdoors, and one to one visits to care home residents, launched on March 8.
Since then, rules have relaxed further. Shops are now allowed to stay open until 10pm, six days a week, in a bid to reduce crowding, and clothes shops have been permitted to reopen their changing rooms.
The maximum number of people allowed to attend weddings and wakes has risen from six to 15, and hospitality rules such as the 10pm curfew and requirement to buy a substantial meal with alcohol have been dropped.
The area was damaged just one day before it was set to reopen under new government rules
The next step will be launched on May 17, and will include the dropping of the rule of six meeting outdoors, allowing gatherings of up to 30, and will allow two households to meet indoors.
Hotels and B&Bs, cinemas and soft play areas are expected to re-open and indoor sports venues will admit 1,000 people, while outdoor venues will be able to admit 4,000 or 50 per cent of a venue's capacity, whichever is lower.
Wembley Stadium, with its larger capacity, will be able to admit 10,000.
A review of social distancing will be undertaken on May 17 and international travel may become possible once again.
The final step by June 21 will see restrictions on large events lifted, but all legal limits on social contact will continue, and restrictions for celebrations such as weddings may still be in effect.
At this time, nightclubs will be able to welcome party-goers for the first time since March 2020.
Beyond June 21, there are expected to be no remaining tiers to go through, though some restrictions may still be in place.
Experts tracking England's outbreak say none of the planned steps taken so far – reopening schools on March 8 and dropping strict stay at home guidance on March 29 – have caused any noticeable problems.