Hirst's Pharmacy given the all-clear

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DAMIEN HIRST, the artist turned restaurateur, has been denied what promised to be a publicity coup for his fashionable eaterie in Notting Hill, west London.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society has dropped its threat to prosecute the restaurant, Pharmacy, which masquerades as a chemist's shop. The society said the restaurant had "knowingly flouted the law" by adopting the name Pharmacy which is a criminal offence under the Medicines Act 1968.

It had reluctantly decided to defer prosecution because "no penalty is available at present that is likely to deter the owners from using the name." The maximum fine under the act is pounds 1,000 - a fraction of what the publicity caused by such a case would have been worth.

Charles Pullan, manager of the pounds 1.5 million restaurant whose shelves of medicines have been confusing shoppers, said he was disappointed. "We are very upset. It was quite an exciting, fun thing going on in the background. We never thought the the Royal Pharmaceutical Society would get very far."

Mr Pullan added: "We do get people coming in with prescriptions. We try not to embarrass them and direct them to the nearest Boots, which is fortunately just down the road."

John Ferguson, secretary of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said the council was seeking a meeting with the health department.

He said: "The owners of this resaurant chose the name knowing it would bring them into conflict with the law. But there is a serious issue here. Parliament restricted the title "pharmacy" so that, when people need medicines they know where to get a professional service and are protected from unscrupulous practices and dubious products.

"The council is determined to find a way to resolve this issue."