A bar brawl that left more than a dozen people injured and sent hundreds running into the streets early Sunday started after a woman threw her drink on a man, the state director of a regional fraternity said.
The fight broke out inside Blue Agave Cantina & Tequila Bar on the second story of The Loft at Victorian Square at West Main Street and North Broadway while dozens of members of Iota Phi Theta fraternity were visiting.
Mario Riley, state director of the fraternity, said Iota members did not start the fight. After the woman threw her drink on the man, who is a member, the woman's boyfriend and several other people attacked the man, Riley said. Iota members gathered to help their fraternity brother, escalating the fight into what Riley called "a free-for-all."
"Everybody was swinging at everybody," he said.
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Lexington police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts said the brawl started as "a verbal disagreement that escalated into a physical altercation."
The fight was reported just before 2:30 a.m. Sunday. Callers told police that a disorder involving potentially hundreds of people had broken out at The Loft, Roberts said.
Several men who were injured in the brawl were released from the hospital Monday.
Jeff Suber, 19; Gerrod Hancock, 27; Jevon Frazier, 19; and Marquis Tompkins, 31, were discharged from University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital, a spokeswoman said. The hospital had no information on Paul Nettles, 36, and James Sylvester, 20, who also were injured in the fight, according to police documents.
The men were stabbed or cut by knives and broken bottles, according to police reports.
Riley said several of the injured, including some who were not taken to the hospital, were members of the fraternity. He added that fraternity members did not have knives at the bar and that the men who were younger than 21 were not members of the fraternity.
Around 400 undergraduate members — Iotas who have not graduated from college — were at a separate event at Buster's Billiards & Backroom, Riley said.
The University of Kentucky has 17 undergraduate Iota members, Riley said. He said none of them was involved in the fight.
Brawls at two restaurants were reported later that morning. Four employees and two customers of Tolly-Ho restaurant, 395 South Limestone, were taken to the hospital after a fight erupted there about 3:30 a.m.
The employees were injured while trying to break up the melee, manager Stephenie Swope said Sunday.
Roberts said another fight broke out at the Waffle House at 1000 Georgetown Road. It was not clear whether anyone was hurt there.
Roberts said police think the same group was involved, but Riley said the Iota brothers who didn't go to the hospital took a tour bus back to their hotel.
"It did not begin with us, and it did not end with us," Riley said. The brothers "knew better than to go in and start something."
Between 600 and 700 Iota members from the organization's Ohio Valley region — Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, Michigan and Ohio — were in Lexington for a regional meeting. Meetings are held quarterly at different member colleges, Riley said.
While in town, members of the predominantly black fraternity worked at a local homeless shelter, donated money to an elementary school and spoke at the American Cancer Society's Hope Lodge.
The night before the brawl, the members had gone to Blue Agave without incident.
"Nobody knew we were there until that issue," Riley said.
Two people were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct after the fight at Tolly-Ho. Roberts said no more arrests had been made.
"Because several of the suspects are from other states, it's going to increase the amount of time it takes to identify and locate them," she said, adding that members involved were from Detroit, Cleveland and Chicago.
Riley said those members who were involved were not at fault.
"Because our bus stood outside that building picking up those individuals, it was attributed to us," he said.