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Waihola's sole watering hole went up in smoke yesterday morning in a blaze that has rocked the close-knit community.
The family who own and operate the Lake Waihola Tavern say they are stunned by the fire that has extensively damaged the property.
They hope, eventually, to rebuild and continue operating in the lakeside township where the pub acts as a focal point.
Authorities are not treating the fire as suspicious but say it is too early to determine the exact cause.
No-one was inside the building when the fire broke out.
A cleaner, who left about 7.30am, later told her managers everything was fine then.
The alarm was raised less than an hour later.
Incident commander Alan Tapp, from the Milton Volunteer Fire Brigade, said the tavern was well alight when the first fire crews arrived.
Five appliances and a water tanker were used and more than 20 firefighters were involved in tackling the blaze, which took about 20 minutes to control.
Mr Tapp believed the fire had started in the kitchen area.
The blaze caused extensive damage to the tavern's kitchen before being extinguished about 9.45am.
The Reid family bought the business nearly three years ago.
Watching firefighters dousing the tavern, Annette Reid said she was "absolutely devastated".
Mrs Reid said the premises was fully insured and the family was waiting to hear from insurance assessors before deciding what to do.
The family enjoyed working and living in the community, which strongly supported the tavern.
"We've got a wonderful community here," Mrs Reid said.
Police closed State Highway 1 while firefighters tackled the blaze.
Traffic was diverted for about three hours, with the road reopened about 11.30am.