BALACLAVA-clad thugs armed with baseball bats and hockey sticks smashed up a function room after beating up a man outside.

Police said a group of up to five men were spotted pulling up in a car outside the Ess Lounge in Shear Brow, Blackburn, before launching the attack.

When a friend of the owner went outside to see who the men were, he was hit with a hockey stick.

The 36-year-old Blackburn man was left needing hospital treatment for cuts on his shins.

The gang then forced their way into the building, smashing windows, a projector screen, a large fish tank plus tables and chairs.

Terrified owner Hamid Shaffaq hid in a back room during the attack which he said lasted several minutes.

Police said damage was estimated at several thousands of pounds.

Some of the gang were then seen getting into a red Citroen Picasso and others into another vehicle.

Two other attackers ran off towards Colenso Road following the incident at 6.30pm on Saturday.

Twelve hours later, at about 6am, the function room was broken into by removing a board across a broken window.

A DVD player, monitor, Virgin Media box, PlayStation Three, amplifier and overhead projector, worth a combined £1,500, were taken.

Mr Shafaq, 28, bought the property five months ago with the intention of turning it into a shisha bar. It is operating as a function room.

He said he was inside the building with two potential customers, discussing hiring the venue, when he saw some men outside.

He said: “The two lads were just about to leave when I noticed two men outside on the CCTV monitor.

“I asked my friend to go to see who they were so he unlocked the door and went outside.

“He then came running back inside screaming and he quickly tried locking the door back up.

“The men then started smashing the door open with some sort of bat.”

Mr Shafaq, of the Whalley Range area, said he hid in a back room with his friend while the men went on the rampage.

At the same time the two potential customers cowered in a corner.

Mr Shafaq said: “All I could hear was screaming and shouting and things being smashed.

“They must have been here for two minutes. They just did the damage and ran out.”

DI Paul Langley, of Blackburn CID, said he was appealing for witnesses.

He said: “This is a serious offence. Several thousands pounds of damage was caused and understandably the owner and his friends has been shaken up.”

A 36-year-old man from Blackburn has been arrested on suspicion of criminal damage and aggravated burglary and has been bailed until February 8.

Call police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.