Brawl mars pub opening
By ZOE SATHERLEY and WILL JACKSON
TWO police officers were injured and at least four people arrested following a huge brawl that erupted at the opening of Bonalbo's new hotel on Friday night.
Punches were thrown, chairs hurled, nine windows smashed, the front doors were demolished and a light fitting was torn off.
Several police cars and 15 police from Bonalbo, Tabulam, Casino and Woodenbong responded to the pub's 000 call around 9.30pm.
Opening celebrations for the new Dog'n Bull Hotel had been proceeding 'absolutely wonderfully' said Tommy Hale, President of the Bonalbo RSL sub-branch, who had the honour of making the opening speech.
At 84, he is one of the respected senior citizens of the town where he has lived for the past 52 years.
"Things turned nasty after an argument over money," he said.
"One fellow was buying a drink with a $50 note. Another fellow asked him for the loan of some money, which he wasn't keen about giving.
"So the fellow wanting the money punched him and that started it.
"Pretty soon there were 20 or 30 people in the thick of it."
Mr Hale said the incident was particularly sad because the town had been without a pub for over ten years since the original hotel was burnt down.
"The new hotel has been built on the same site and it will provide a great boost for the town by providing meals and accommodation as well as a great place to meet and yarn," he said.
"It is just very, very upsetting to have this happen on the first day the place opens.
"It was totally uncalled for and irresponsible behaviour by a small group of people, many of whom came from another town. The other 200 or so people there were having a lovely time before the fight started.
"The police had been informed about the opening party and so were able to respond pretty fast. We can thank them that there were not any more injuries or even more damage done.
"They did a fine job but copped a lot of verbal abuse and quite a few punches. It was just a terrible thing that spoiled the whole night for everyone."
Duty Officer Insp Glen Gilbert said at least four people in total were arrested on charges ranging from malicious damage, offensive conduct, assault and assaulting police. Two of those charged were 26-year-olds from Bonalbo.
Two police were injured, however they were not taken to hospital.
Bonalbo resident Geoff Bateman, who attended the opening party and is a keen local historian, said the new hotel took its Dog'n Bull name after its proud and colourful history.
Bonalbo is claimed to have had the State's first dog trials 52 years ago and was also a famed centre for bull sales. A dog and bull featured in the opening.