A violent robbery at the St. Norbert Hotel Saturday night began quickly and caught staff and customers off guard.

By the time it ended, one suspect sat in the back of a police car and a regular customer was in an ambulance being treated for a stab wound to the neck.

Owner David Kaisaris said about 80 customers were enjoying a typical Saturday evening at the pub when several masked men armed with knives burst in.

"One fella stopped at the front of the bar. One came to (one) end and one started running around the bar saying, 'This is a stickup,’” said Kaisaris.

Some suspects escaped through a side door but customers stepped in and confronted one of the men before he could get away.

"Some of the regulars had figured it out long before I had and were chasing these guys,” said Kaisaris. “They chased them out the back door. They chased them over the patio."

Kaisaris said the cornered suspect lashed out with his knife and stabbed the customer.

That man was treated in hospital for his injuries and has since been released.

"Fortunately, we don't see this level of violence used in commercial robberies very often,” said Const. Eric Hofley of the Winnipeg Police Service.

“One of the suspects was willing to use a weapon to ensure his getaway," he said.

A group of regulars held the suspect until police arrived and Kaisaris called their actions heroic.

"That's what you have when you've got a great community bar,” said Kaisaris. “They take ownership of this place. And they weren't going to have somebody violate their bar."

Police said a 27-year-old man from Winnipeg faces several charges, including robbery, disguise with intent and aggravated assault.

According to police, the general public needs to weigh the risks when trying to stop a violent crime in progress.

"It's all situational. How do these people feel? How comfortable are they dealing with an armed suspect?” said Hofley.

Kaisaris said when the group of men holding the suspect down unmasked him, staff and customers recognized him as someone who had been a customer at the pub on a number of occasions.

Police won’t say exactly how many other suspects they are seeking.

Kaisaris said the bar is equipped with 25 surveillance cameras and the footage has been turned over to police.