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A once-popular Alexandra watering hole, the former Station Bar and Grill, was the target of an arson attack late on Thursday.
The bar had been closed while new tenants renovated it before a reopening scheduled for January 6.
It is unclear whether that reopening will go ahead as planned, although police say damage appeared to be minor.
Detective Sergeant Derek Shaw said a police patrol had noticed the fire in the Tarbert St bar shortly after it had been lit, just before midnight on Thursday.
The Alexandra Volunteer Fire Brigade was quick to the scene and firefighters were able to extinguish the fire easily.
Officer in charge John Mawhinney said it was just a small fire against the bar but the building had filled with smoke.
Det Sgt Shaw said it appeared an accelerant had been used to start the fire.
Police were yesterday investigating, among other things, how the arsonist gained access to the building.
He said there was no indication the fire was linked to the suspected arson of a hay barn near Roxburgh late last month.
The visibly upset tenants declined to speak to the Otago Daily Times yesterday, as did the building owner.