THE FUTURE of a much-loved cafe at the heart of a Hampshire community could be in jeopardy after thieves smashed their way inside causing thousands of pounds of damage.

Parklife Cafe in Shirley has been forced to close for at least two days after it was targeted on its third anniversary by thieves who ransacked the place in what owners believe was a premeditated attack.

The break-in caused anger and disgust among the many young families who use the cafe in St James Park everyday, while those volunteers running it fear the cost of the theft and damage could see it closed next winter.

The thieves gained entry overnight on Sunday by smashing one of the cafe’s large glass walls before they jumped over the counter, stealing the empty till, laptop which provides music for customers and filling a bin full of snacks and drinks from the fridge.

They then kicked in the staff room door where the keys to the rest of the building were locked inside, allowing them to ransack the place, stealing whatever they could find, including a large monitor, and another laptop.

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They also smashed their way into the manager’s office, stealing nearly £100 in charity money, which had been raised during the recent community games, which was going to be donated to the Coxford District Youth Project.

Manger Paul Salmon had no choice but to close the cafe for two days as the massive clean-up operation got under way, making sure that every little piece of glass has been cleared.

The closure will see the cafe lose £1,000 in takings, while the replacement of the window and the artwork that was on it will cost more than £2,000, alongside the cost of what was stolen which runs to more than £1,000.

As the cafe is run by volunteers on behalf of the community, any profit made is ploughed back into the cafe and the park.

However, with any profit from the summer now being used to pay for the break-in, next winter could see the cafe run into financial difficulty and it may have to close.

Barry Worth, chairman of the board of volunteer directors, said: “This could put the long-term future of the cafe in jeopardy which would be a great loss to the area, particularly the disadvantaged in the community that we support through various projects. Although we will be OK this winter, by next winter we may have to close.”

Anyone with information should contact PC Ben Hitchens at Shirley Police station on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.