WORK to convert a former church into a restaurant looks set to be complete in around four weeks.
John O’Connor has spent 16 years working to open the upmarket eaterie at St Andrew’s Church, in York Place, on Hartlepool’s Headland.
The Mail reported in April that Mr O’Connor, of long-established firm O’Connor Roofing Services, had received planning permission to open a restaurant alongside a day-time tearoom.
Now the finishing touches are being put in place to the once-derelict building and the venue, named Mary Rowntree’s after a church-goer, and which will cater for around 80 people, should open next month.
Mr O’Connor, who is married to Daphne and lives at Seaton Carew, said: “A lot of people who have been through the door to see the renovation I’ve been doing say it really has the wow factor.
“I have now got an alcohol licence.
“It will be a Victorian tearoom during the day and an upmarket fish bistro on an evening.
“I’m looking to get things finished hopefully within three to five weeks.
“The furniture is all here and the kitchen is getting finished – that was a major job.”
The granddad-of-five, who had originally fallen in love with the building while working on its roof as a lad in 1964, added: “It’s been a long drawn-out process, but now it’s all coming together and I think it looks great.”
The Mail previously reported that members of Hartlepool Borough Council’s planning committee voted unanimously to allow Mr O’Connor to open the restaurant at the Grade II-listed building, which dates back to 1886.
He had been granted planning permission for the tearoom in 2007, but applied to open up a restaurant due to the financial climate and public demand.
Mr O’Connor had gathered an 874-name petition in support of the plans after Headland Parish Council had asked for its use to be limited to a tearoom/unlicensed restaurant and its hours to be limited to 7pm, due to potential noise and late-night disturbance.
But a report to the planning committee said the restaurant would have less potential impact on neighbouring properties as a pub such as the nearby Harbour of Refuge.
The venue’s opening hours will be 9am until 11pm, from Monday to Saturday and 9am until 10pm, on Sundays.