The final hurdle for restaurant?

John O'Connor pictured outside the restraunt.

John O'Connor pictured outside the restraunt.

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A BUSINESSMAN hopes he is at the “final hurdle” in a long-running saga to see whether the restaurant he has spent 16 years renovating can open.

John O’Connor has his fingers crossed that the green light can finally be given to Mary Rowntree’s tearoom and restaurant, on Hartlepool’s Headland.

He hopes by providing Hartlepool Borough Council with detailed arrangements regarding disabled access to the York Place-based venue, which was formerly St Andrew’s Church, he will finally be able to trade.

The Hartlepool Mail has regularly featured the entrepreneur, of O’Connor Roofing Services, since April last year when he was granted planning permission for the eaterie.

He was due to open officially on December 5, but has met with a series of hurdles, including being required by Hartlepool Borough Council to apply fire-proof paint to wood panels on his ceiling.

Mr O’Connor, who said he would “rather shut the doors and leave the building” than apply the paint, was also asked to install a grease trap outside the kitchen.

After agreeing the changes, he then planned to open on Friday, December 23, but was met with another hold-up when he said he was told by the council there was a problem with the building’s emergency lighting. Since then, Mr O’Connor has been given approval for the lighting, but says he just needs to clarify provision of disabled access.

He said: “We have got a disabled lift to take people up to the mezannine floor, but there are four steps to the bar.

“We have adjusted our access statement to say as you come into the bar area, people can press a buzzer if they need assistance.

“We will have food and drinks menus and a waitress service anyway.

“We will have a sign up saying if you need assistance it’s here.”

Mr O’Connor, who said he has been “stressed to bits” by the delays, added he hopes to start taking bookings for functions, including Christenings, soon.

“I’m going to have to, because this place is costing me a fortune in overheads now,” he said.

“The amount of people coming and asking me when I’m opening, you wouldn’t believe.

But Mr O’Connor said despite the optimism, he had sadly had to lay off the manageress he had hired for the time being.

Other staff have been on stand-by.

A council spokesman said: “Our building control team is waiting to see the access statement which will set out the proposed arrangements for providing an equal level of service for people with disabled access needs.”