SHOPKEEPERS have told of their terror after a café was burgled and an assistant was “held prisoner” by a menacing man.

Two separate incidents took place this weekend in Brighton’s Trafalgar Street.

On Friday night, a thief smashed the front door of the Red Fish Art and Coffee Shop, prising it open with a crowbar before making off with petty cash from the till.

The Argus: The broken door at the Red Fish The broken door at the Red Fish

The cafe had been open for less than a week. Owners Aysenil Tosun and her husband Goktay Tosun said they were terrified.

Aysenil said: “We got a call from the police at quarter to eight on Saturday and they told us the door had been smashed.

“They didn’t get much money – we had about £25 in coins in the till. But it was awful. I was very, very afraid. I was shaking all day.

“We lost business and it cost £400 to replace the door.

“It’s such a shame. This is the heart of Brighton. It’s really sad to feel like you need shutters on a new cafe.

“Lots of people showed support and came and gave us a hug, but it’s such a horrible thing to happen in your first week.

“We’ve heard of this kind of thing happening to other shops nearby but we didn’t know we’d be next. We’ve only been open for five days.”

The Argus: Aysenil Tosun and her husband Goktay TosunAysenil Tosun and her husband Goktay Tosun

A street cleaner and a baker raised the alarm on Saturday morning and police said they are hoping to trace the suspects.

A shop assistant said she and a customer were trapped in The Dressing Room clothes shop, in the same street, for almost an hour on Saturday afternoon after a large man “barged in”.

She said he intimidated them, and prevented them from calling the police.

The shop assistant, who did not wish to be named, described her ordeal.

She said: “The man just tumbled in through the door. He barged in and almost fell. It was all so hectic and confusing. It looked like he was drunk or on drugs.

“He offered me a bunch of flowers and started getting really agitated when I didn’t put them in a vase.

“Then he sat down and asked me to call an ambulance for him. I started to dial, but then he told me I wasn’t allowed to call anyone. He kept checking my phone to make sure I wasn’t calling the police.

“We couldn’t leave the shop and we couldn’t tell police, so we were effectively held prisoner.

“It was terrifying.

“He told me to put on music and turn it up. He kept promising he’d leave if I played another song.

“It was horrible. It seemed like forever. Then a customer outside saw something was up and called the police.”

Shopkeepers have been raising concerns about crime in the street for months.

Liv Mulhern runs the Trafalgar Street Traders Group, which supports local businesses.

Her e-cigarette shop was broken into last year during a spate of break-ins.

The Argus: Liv Mulhern, who runs the Trafalgar Street Traders GroupLiv Mulhern, who runs the Trafalgar Street Traders GroupSpeaking after a gang “ransacked” The Laine Deli last month, she said traders have been left feeling “like sitting ducks”.

Talking about the incident at The Dressing Room, she said: “This was potentially very serious and the shopkeeper was left extremely shaken up.”

Sussex Police are now appealing for witnesses.

The force has previously insisted it treats break-ins seriously and said it had arrested several thieves in recent months.

A spokesman for the force said police were called to The Dressing Room to find “a man behaving in a drunk and aggressive manner was refusing to leave the premises”.

The spokesman said: “He had previously been seen shouting at people and disrupting traffic in the street outside. The man was spoken to by an officer and sent on his way.”

He said police are also investigating the break-in at the Red Fish Art and Cafe Shop and appealed for witnesses to call Sussex Police on 101 or report it online quoting serial 252 of 22/02.