A RESTAURANT belonging to Formula One driver Jenson Button that was threatened with legal action from another food chain has closed.

Victus Restaurant opened in Harrogate on September 11, last year, with a ceremony attended by the McLaren driver.

It blamed its downfall on the economic downturn.

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The Formula One star, who is estimated to be worth about £53m and who owns homes around the world, invested in the business with manager Richard Goddard.

Mr Goddard said: “It is a huge shame Victus has found itself in this situation, especially when the reasons behind it are really a question of timing rather than anything else.

“We were approached by friends a few years ago about investing in this project and, with over two years of research having gone into the restaurant and a further year spent on securing the right building and refurbishing it, this is in no way down to a lack of preparation or understanding.

“Unfortunately, the business was launched in an economy which then continued to slide and just hasn’t stopped, with people simply not having the disposable income needed to spend in restaurants.”

Dishes on offer included cheese nachos, burgers and chunky chips.

Shortly after the chain opened, healthy fast food chain Leon, which has 13 restaurants, mostly in London, is said to have sought legal advice over similiarities between its restaurants.

Henry Dimbleby, the cofounder of Leon and author of several culinary books, said Victus had imitated its branding and copied many of its dishes.

Button said he was inspired by foreign cusines encountered while travelling the world.

When The Northern Echo asked Mr Dimbleby if he had taken legal action against Victus, he said: “We had a long chat with them about it.”

Brian Dunsby, the chief executive of Harrogate Chamber of Trade and Commerce, said restaurants generally were doing well in the town.

He said: “It is not typical of Harrogate. They are opening more and more restaurants here. We have a pretty low empty property level. I think it’s about seven per cent and other towns have 20 per cent or more.

“The location is some distance away from the conference and exhibition centre, which I suspect would affect it.

“There are lots of restaurants thriving farther down the hill.”

No one from Victus was available for comment yesterday.