The historic Royal Exchange Hotel in Sydney’s inner west has been damaged in a suspected arson attack.

The hotel’s beloved pet rescue cat Whisky was killed in the blaze which took hold just before midnight on Monday night.

Several staff, patrons and residents had to be evacuated through a window. Ladders were needed to get them down from an awning, and many were treated for smoke inhalation, although none were seriously injured.

The Royal Exchange, which had recently been renovated, is owned by Lewis Hotels, a family business that began in Victoria but has since expanded to Sydney, where it owns and operates seven venues.

The fire damaged both the first and second floor, although some parts of the building are still intact.

A man was seen running from the building around the time that the fire broke out. The blaze reportedly started on the second floor and is being treated as suspicious by police.

Mick Doughan sold the Royal Exchange Hotel to Lewis Hotels in 2019 for a reported price tag of $33m. The pub’s gaming room and bistro were refurbished earlier this year.

Lewis Hotels also owns Vegas Hotel in Kings Cross, and Sydney suburban pubs the Beverly Hills Hotel, The Canley Hotel, Croydon Park Hotel, Lalor Park Hotel, Wentworthville Hotel, and Quakers Inn.

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