D-day for tearoom

John O'Connor outside the former church he has spent 16 years converting into a tearoom and restaurant
John O'Connor outside the former church he has spent 16 years converting into a tearoom and restaurant

A DECISION on whether a new eaterie can open after weeks of uncertainty could be made today.

John O’Connor, owner of Mary Rowntree’s tearoom and restaurant, hopes a meeting with a council inspector regarding emergency lighting at the venue could mean it finally gets to open.

Mr O’Connor says there is nothing wrong with the lights and he was due to meet with the inspector, from Hartlepool Borough Council’s building control department, and his own electrician this afternoon.

The venue, on Hartlepool’s Headland, which John spent 16 years converting from the former St Andrew’s Church, was originally scheduled to open on December 5.

But exactly a month on, Mr O’Connor, of long-established town firm O’Connor Roofing Services, is still waiting for the green light to open up.

The Hartlepool Mail reported last month that Mr O’Connor had agreed to apply fire-proof paint to wooden panels on the ceiling.

He had initially refused to do so, saying the paint would “ruin the building aesthetically” and said he would “rather shut the doors and leave the building” than apply the paint.

He had also said he complied with other building recommendations following a previous visit by an inspector from Hartlepool Borough Council, including installing a grease trap outside the kitchen and linking the York Place-based building’s alarm with its music system.

He had then planned to open on Friday, December 23, but the business is still waiting for the go-ahead from the council to trade.

Mr O’Connor told the Mail: “I had a meeting with the inspector on Tuesday.

“He came over to inspect everything we have done.

“We have painted the ceiling and put the grease-proof trap in.

“But now the inspector has found a problem with the emergency lights.

“There is nothing wrong with them, my electrician assured me, so there’s nothing more we can actually do.

“Hopefully this is the final hurdle for us.”

A council spokesman said: “We explained to Mr O’Connor before Christmas that there were some issues outstanding, including in relation to the operation of the emergency lighting.

“The council’s building control inspector visited the premises on Tuesday and found that those issues had still not all been addressed.

“The inspector will therefore be making a further visit to the premises today in an attempt to help resolve those issues.”

The three-level building will house a tearoom, trading from 9am until 11pm from Monday to Saturday and from 9am until 10pm on Sundays.

Mr O’Connor plans to open the restaurant section later in the year.