THE owner of a Royalty-themed tearoom in County Durham has thrown out three middle-aged customers who refused to stand when she played the national anthem.
Fervent monarchist Anita Atkinson, 55, opened the Royal Teas shop in rural Stanhope with her friend Christine Dodd to mark the jubilee celebrations. Mrs Atkinson, a magistrate, school governor and Deputy Lord Lieutenant of the County of Durham, was the Guinness Book of Records holder for the largest collection of Royal memorabilia – and some of those items have been put on show in the tearooms.
Every day at 3pm, Mrs Atkinson asks customers to stand and then lets a young customer tap a helium balloon which then plays the tune of the national anthem.
She said: “The whole thing is quirky, it’s a bit of fun and we decided that we should play the national anthem at 3pm. On Saturday I announced it, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, please be upstanding for Her Majesty the Queen’. They all did – including four teenagers – apart from three ladies who were looking a bit miserable.
“They were vociferous in their refusal to stand up so I asked: ‘Are you not going to stand up?’ One said ‘I’m not standing’ so I said ‘will you just please leave then’. I was nice about it.
“One of them told me the coffee was rubbish and they talked deliberately through the national anthem.
“They were grumbling all the way out.”
But Mrs Atkinson said it was not their refusal to stand up which annoyed her, but their general attitude.
“There have been numerous occasions since we opened when customers haven’t stood up. My husband John would not have stood up, not because he is anti-monarchy but because he would have felt self-conscious.
“It was the fact that they were being rude which annoyed me.
“A pub landlord has the right to refuse to serve someone if he so wishes and I felt the same about these three women. I have no idea who they are but I have learnt they came from Wolsingham, just a few miles along the road.
“They have done me a huge good turn. I mentioned casually in a BBC interview about my Royal Tea Room what had happened and since then the story has gone international.
“They have done me a huge favour by putting the tea room on the world stage.”
Royal Teas was officially opened last month by Princess Helen of Romania, who is 89th in the line of succession to the British Throne.