A POPULAR restaurant just outside Salisbury has closed down, blaming a “disastrous” year and increasing running costs.

The Hilltop Diner in London Road, Firsdown, closed with immediate effect on Tuesday.

In a posting on the restaurant’s website, managing director Brian Warren told visitors that it was “with great sadness”.

He said: “We have done everything we can to keep the business active but we are now in an impossible position because the rent on the property is simply not realistic and is unfair to the business.

“We can no longer afford to run the business with the high costs that are being put on it now. Economic changes in the country are also contributing heavily to this decision. “We have continued to try to remedy the issues, but without direct help from the landlord in reducing the rent we have no option but to close.”

The diner, which won a new business award in 2011 at the South Wilts Business of the Year awards, ran several events in connection with local charities.

In conjunction with Dogs Trust Salisbury, it held the first UK Take your Dog to Dinner event in February 2011, where owners and dog lovers were encouraged to take part in the evening.

And it supported a regular seniors’ day in Winterslow, producing the food for the lunchtime meeting.

Mr Warren, who lived in a caravan for three years to raise money for the business start-up costs, thanked the diner’s loyal customers, suppliers and charities.

He said: “We have always had an exceptional team at Hilltop Diner and I wish it could continue. We have come from nothing and ended up with recognised business awards and great recognition from larger companies than us.

“This was all due to the team effort given by all the staff and it made me very proud to be their boss. I can tell you the enjoyment and heartache that have become part of our lives here and will miss not having my team around me. You have been a total support and I hope you will understand the difficult decision I have had to make over these past few days.”