Nfld. & Labrador

After violent attack 'like a horror movie,' Toslow gets ready to reopen

Toslow is a speakeasy-type bar in St. John's, offering a quieter, calmer, more low-key downtown option. But on one late night last week, it was anything but.

'I seriously think we were targeted, without a doubt,' says Chris Scott about attack by a man with a knife

Chris Scott is one of the owners of Toslow on Duckworth Street in downtown St. John's. (Gavin Simms/CBC)

Toslow is a speakeasy-type bar in St. John's, offering a quieter, calmer, more low-key downtown option. But as the bar's owner was closing up shop one night last week, it became anything but when a man with a knife attacked him.

"It literally was like a movie — like a horror movie," said Chris Scott, one of the owners of Toslow.

It was around 1 a.m. on Aug. 23, and Scott and a couple of pals were cleaning up the bar when they heard a commotion outside.

When he poked his head out to investigate, Scott said, the bar's patio furniture was tossed around, as was the cigarette butt depository, and a man was standing nearby.

Toslow will open its doors Wednesday night as usual. (Gavin Simms/CBC)

Thinking the man had hurt himself somehow, Scott called out after him, asking, "Hey, are you all right?"

"Immediately he turns around and I can see — the way I described it to the cops, like right away just his eyes were completely glazed over," said Scott.

"I knew he was gunning for me. Just total instincts came in, so I started to back up because he started coming down the stairs pretty fast."

I seriously think we were targeted, without a doubt.- Chris Scott

Scott urged his friends back inside the bar as the man made his way toward them.

"He started coming, lunging through the door, throwing punches — or what we thought to be punches at the time," Scott recounted.

"We just realized he's in some sort of rage. It definitely felt like drugs to me."

The assailant rained blows over his head and nape of his neck, Scott said, while he and his friends — and one regular customer — tried to get the man out.

Scott's colleague came out of the back and was able to get the man out the door, and the four men followed him out.

"He kind of had his chokehold in the doorway for a bit, bottlenecked in there, so once we get him out we're talking to him and still just trying to get him to leave," Scott said.

'Like a zombie movie'

The assailant simply turned and left.

"That's probably what we noted to be the most scary and eerie part of it, was not a word was said," Scott said.

"Not a grunt, not a yell, anything. It was like a zombie movie; that's the best way to describe him."

In the wake of the attack, Scott said, he and his friends assessed the damage.

It was only then they realized the man had attacked them with a knife.

"One of my friends, he's already bleeding out of his head down over his face, so we come back inside. I think I'm fine — I didn't feel a thing. I was being punched," Scott said.

"Obviously the adrenalin and whatever else, in that kind of situation, you're just gonna be pretty belt up. But I put a hand on the back of my head and yeah, there was just blood running everywhere."

Toslow is a speakeasy-inspired bar in St. John's, offering a quieter venue with locally produced beers. (Toslow/Facebook)

Scott said he had a few cuts on the back of his head and a bit of damage on his shoulder.

"My other buddy, it's mostly the head area, some of his clothing and on his body as well. Then the third fella — who's a buddy of ours now who was just a regular before — he also got some small lacerations as well from the blade or knife that he was carrying."

Scott called his partner to tell her what happened, and ask her to call the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary.

An investigating officer reviewed security footage of the attack, and Scott said they were told they were actually lucky the injuries hadn't been worse.

"Obviously we got out of there with quite minor injuries, but I mean he put it to us pretty seriously that I think maybe the wrong place or wrong situation, it certainly could have been a fatality," Scott said.

With the attacker on the loose, and Scott feeling unsettled after the attack on Thursday, he didn't open Toslow until Saturday night because he was working. Scott said he didn't want any of his staff working at the bar until he knew it would be safe.

I never imagined this could have happened in a million years.- Chris Scott

It wasn't until Sunday, Scott said, that he got a call from police, saying the man had been arrested.

"Obviously everything's been hectic since this happened Thursday night, but there was a real sense of relief."

Toslow remains closed right now, with doors expected to be open again per usual Wednesday.

"We're still gonna take our two days off. I think we kind of need it at this point," Scott said.

"At this point, I don't know where it goes from here."

Physically OK, mentally recovering

More problematic, Scott said, is that he knows exactly who attacked him.

"Obviously downtown St. John's … it's a bit of a village in its own right, so we happen to know the individual. He's not a patron of our establishment, that's for sure, day or night," Scott said.

"We've heard a lot of rumours.… I've heard that he definitely has some sort of hatred toward artists and the like, so I don't know — I seriously think we were targeted, without a doubt."

Scott said Toslow's usual patrons tend to be involved in the arts scene in some way or other.

"We get all different types of people and it's not hard to see that, yeah, we do get a lot of musicians and artists and whatever down there, but I really do think it was just an attack on the kinds of people who like to hang out there."

Scott added he was concerned about a lack of communication to the public by police of a possible dangerous man on the loose following the attack.

Scott said he was relieved when police told him a man was arrested Sunday. (Toslow/Facebook)

The RNC confirmed a 29-year-old man known to the three victims was arrested at his home on Sunday.

Charges include three counts of assault with a weapon and possession of a weapon dangerous to the public. The man was held in custody ahead of a bail hearing Tuesday.

RNC spokesman Const. James Cadigan said police could not confirm whether or not the attack was targeted, adding officers did not perceive a risk to the public.

In the meantime, Scott said, while he's nursing a couple of minor injuries, he's actually grateful he was there.

We're just hoping things can go back to normal and it can be the type of place that we wanted to open a year ago.- Chris Scott

"I wouldn't want anyone that works for me to be there."

Scott said he hopes things will feel more normal eventually.

"I think physically we're all definitely fine. I mean … in a violent situation and even witnessing that, you're gonna have to think about that one for a little bit, right? But otherwise everyone's spirits are up and we're all doing pretty good, I think. Luckily," he said.

"We've been open a year and I never imagined this could have happened in a million years, but we're just hoping things can go back to normal and it can be the type of place that we wanted to open a year ago, that's nice and chill and you can come in and have a local beer."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Gavin Simms