Tearoom opens after setbacks

John O'Connor (centre) with staff members (left to right) Paul Noble, Tracy Andrews, Daphne O'Connor and Dennis Swales
John O'Connor (centre) with staff members (left to right) Paul Noble, Tracy Andrews, Daphne O'Connor and Dennis Swales

A BUSINESSMAN says he is delighted after finally being given the go-ahead to open his long-awaited tearoom.

Mary Rowntree’s Tearoom and Restaurant was set to open today, much to the delight of its owner John O’Connor and 11 new members of staff.

John spent 16 years renovating the former St Andrew’s Church, on Hartlepool’s Headland, and planned to open it as a restaurant and tearoom.

Despite getting planning permission in April last year, the venue was not allowed to open because of a series of setbacks.

Requirements by Hartlepool Borough Council included applying fire-proof paint to wood panels on his ceiling and disabled access requirements for four steps to the bar from the mezzanine floor, as well as rectifying emergency lighting issues.

John, of O’Connor Roofing Services, who had planned to open on December 5 last year, had initially refused to apply the paint and said it would ruin the building’s character, but eventually backed down.

Then he was met with further delays over the disabled access. But after months of working to meet the requirements, John says he is delighted to be opening.

The Seaton Carew resident said: “It feels amazing and it’s a big weight off my shoulders.”

Six full-time and five part-time staff will be employed by John who said in the past few days, while they have been preparing the menu, there had received more than 80 visits from Headland residents and visitors who could smell the food.

But he said it was great to be able to inform them the eaterie would be open for business today.

“Lots of people have commented on how fabulous the place looks,” said John.

“Everyone said they wanted to be the first customer.”

The menu will consist of traditional food including cream teas and sandwiches, as well as home-made scones and cakes.

John has already taken 14 bookings for birthdays and wedding anniversaries.

He said he hoped Mary Rowntree’s would boost tourism for the Headland and attract more people, especially as there is now somewhere to have a cup of tea with a nice sea view.

A council spokesman said: “From a building regulation, planning and licensing point of view, we are happy for Mr O’Connor’s establishment to open.”