THE landlord of The Nelson pub last night told how a brawl was sparked by two carloads of “lunatics” ambushing two men.
Terrified customers, including children, watched as the men attacked the pair in the pub in Between Towns Road, Oxford, at about 4pm on Friday, threw a heavy sign through a window and even asked for chairs to use as weapons.
One man was taken to the John Radcliffe Hospital with head injuries but later discharged, while two men were arrested by police on suspicion of violent disorder.
Landlord David Brewerton said he was shocked at the level of violence and disregard for other people.
The Didcot resident, who has run the pub since 2009, said: “It seemed to happen out of nothing. It was just after 4pm so there were families and children sitting down to eat.
“Two groups came along in what appear to be separate cars and attacked two lads sitting down inside. One was chatting to his girlfriend when he got smashed.
“They were completely out of control, like lunatics. It was crazy but seemed to be over in minutes.
“They were asking people to hand over chairs so they could use them as weapons.
“My staff helped get them outside and I closed the pub but one guy went around the building, picked up a pub sign and threw it through the window. It was like he was trying to get back inside.”
Officers continued their investigations over the weekend and appealed for witnesses. Police estimate there were up to 20 people involved but Mr Brewerton disputed that. The pub is due to re-open today.
Det Sgt Simon Hannam said: “This was a large fight which took place in the late afternoon in what is essentially a busy commercial and residential area.
“We would urge anyone who may have been in the pub and witnessed the disorder, or if anyone saw anything outside the pub at that time, then we would like to hear from them.”
Mr Brewerton said: “We have done so much to change the stereotypical reputation so it is horrible when something like this happens. It was mindless disregard for public safety and we will not tolerate it.
“I’ve seen the CCTV and you can tell they aren’t regulars by the way they are walking around the pub checking it out.
“Because of the gravity of the incident, criminal damage that was suffered and potential impact I have requested all persons involved be placed on Pubwatch for a minimum of two years.”
Pubwatch is a partnership of licensees who share information about potential troublemakers.
Mr Brewerton, 41, added: “My staff and I are working with police to bring offenders to justice. The Nelson upholds a zero-tolerance to violence, and drugs. We will work hard to regain the public’s trust and would like to assure people this is a one-off.”
Police, aided by the force helicopter, were called to the pub shortly after 4pm to reports of a fight.
Two men, aged 31, from Oxford, were arrested on suspicion of violent disorder and have been bailed until March 17. Witnesses should call police on 101.