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Manchester Evening News
Manchester Evening News
Hana Kelly

‘It’s like it’s my birthday: The pubs enjoying Paul Heaton’s birthday bar tab

Sixty 25th of Decembers, Fifty-nine 4th of Julys, it’s Manchester music legend Paul Heaton’s 60th birthday today (May 9) and to celebrate in style, he has gifted a bar tab to 60 pubs across the UK. Six of which are in Greater Manchester.

The former frontman of the Housemartins and the Beautiful South is local to South Manchester and to show his support to his community, two of Manchester’s six tabs were awarded to Paul Heaton’s locals: The Orion on Burton Road and Albert Wilsons on Wilmslow Road in Withington.

The Manchester Evening News visited these two establishments to find out how customers, fans and residents in Withington are enjoying Paul’s birthday. While true locals were sticking to their own pubs, some customers were on the all new Paul Heaton birthday pint pub crawl, making sure to visit the two Withington pubs as well as The Railway Inn at West Didsbury, and if time permitted, a trip to The Bowling Green in Chorlton.

Read more: Son of rock icon opens bar under Manc Way flyover

Marguerita Doyle, the landlady of The Orion in Withington has organised a birthday party for Paul Heaton this evening. Despite thinking he isn’t going to show up, the pub wants to put on some Beautiful South and enjoy a celebration in his honour.

Marguerita Doyle, the landlady of The Orion, blows balloons up for Paul Heaton's birthday celebrations (Manchester Evening News)

The Orion is offering one free drink to every patron until the tab runs out. Marguerita is certain it won’t last all night. She said: “He used to be a regular here. He’s such a nice guy anyway, he’s dead down to earth and he mixes with all the locals. There’s no airs and graces with him.

“We’re going to do a big happy birthday for Paul, we’ll get all of the students together later and sing happy birthday, have music, a bit of food. Everyone gets a drink.”

Martin Whitelock, a regular at The Orion was pleased to enjoy a free pint in the pubs beer garden. He said: “It’s sound, he’s sound as well, Paul. I’ve been coming here for years since 1992 and he was a local.”

Martin Whitelock celebrates Paul Heaton's birthday with a pint on the house and a balloon (Manchester Evening News)

Another punter, who asked not to be named, said: “He’s the only one that’s done it. He was alright in the Housemartins, it’s really appreciated.”

Harriet Faulkner, a 20 year-old student living in the area, is a fan of the Beautiful South and visited The Orion for the pint. She said: “We came here with the intention of a free drink. Happy birthday to him, it’s a lovely idea, an expensive idea.”

Harriet found out about the bar tab through a friend in Ireland, whose local was included on the list. Naturally, she checked it and was happy to see she could grab a couple of drinks for Paul’s birthday as well.

Immy Bohn, also a 20 year-old student living in south Manchester, explained how she enjoyed watching the joy on people’s faces when they were told their first drink was paid for. She said: “It’s really nice to see someone get a pint and find out it’s on the house.”

After finishing their pints at The Orion, Harriet and Immy ventured down the road to enjoy another drink on Paul at Albert Wilsons on Wilmslow Road.

Harriet Faulkner and Immy Bohn cheers to Paul Heaton and wish him a happy birthday from The Orion's beer garden (Manchester Evening News)

Paul Conaghan, 41, and Yvonne Clarke, 37, are regulars at The Orion and were also planning on making the most of the birthday drinks by hitting Albert Wilsons after they’d supped up at The Orion.

Paul, a painter and decorator said: “We’re going to the next pub soon. We come here quite often. I love The Housemartins and the Beautiful South. I just think it’s amazing, £1,000 at each pub, that’s £60,000, he’s a good person.

“I just hope he has a good birthday.”

Yvonne, a chef, added: “You don’t see many people doing this sort of thing.” It has not been confirmed that Paul Heaton has set up a £1,000 tab at all 60 bars. However, it was disclosed that £1,000 is the amount on tab at The Orion.

Paul Conaghan and Yvonne Clarke are following the free drinks through south Manchester (Manchester Evening News)

At Albert Wilsons, the mood was cheerful and merry as the punters enjoyed their free pints. One customer arrived at the bar and asked: “Can I get half a cider? Can I get it on Paul?”

Janine Renee, the barmaid at Albert Wilsons smiled, poured the drink and told the Manchester Evening News that she expected the pub would be very busy later as the news spread. She said: “I think it’s brilliant, he comes in here anyway. He was in on Friday night. We’re expecting a lot more people this evening, it was the evening news and Twitter got the word out.

“He’s just so humble, so nice, he comes in here with his wife and they’re good fun. It’s just a really nice thing to do, it’s a beautiful gesture.”

Meanwhile, a customer who asked just to be known as Alex reminisced about Paul’s contributions to the area. He said: “Paul Heaton, he’s lived here a long time and he’s a Manchester legend. We’ve all supported him so it’s good that he’s given back to the community.

Albert Wilsons on Wilmslow Road, Withington (Manchester Evening News)

“It’s weird he’s not done the Dog and Partridge in Didsbury because The Beautiful South played there. They put a sign up over their name and renamed the pub for a day.”

Kevin Morris, meanwhile, was blown away by the kindness of Paul and wants to repay him with a drink sometime. He said: “It’s a good gesture, 60 pubs? That’s fantastic, you wouldn’t get that from Noel or Liam Gallagher.

“There’s one thing I’ve got to do now and that’s meet him and buy him a drink. But the problem is, he’s night people and we’re day people, but I’ve got to do it.

“Normally, these things, it’s all celebrity. But this is just for anybody and he’s still buying you a drink. It’s like it’s my birthday!”

Joe Martin agreed with Kevin and thought the idea that the average person could come and enjoy a pint was brilliant.

Joe Martin enjoys a pint on Paul Heaton at Albert Wilsons (Manchester Evening News)

He said: “It’s a good gesture. Anything is better than nothing. I think being local, doing for the people of Withington, South Manchester, it’s good for the average person, for Joe Bloggs.”

Posting about his plan on Facebook yesterday, Sunday May 8, Paul Heaton shared a photo of himself in a pub and wrote: “To celebrate my 60th birthday (on Monday 9th May) I’d originally intended to do another bicycle tour, visiting & performing at 60 pubs across the UK & Ireland. However, due to recording delays caused by the pandemic, I’ve had to shelve these plans for the time being.

Paul Heaton celebrates his 60th in style with cash behind the bar across the UK (Facebook/Paul Heaton)

“Instead, I’ve decided that the next best way to celebrate this coming of age is to handpick 60 pubs across the UK & Ireland and put a given amount of money behind the bar of each one. Then, both regulars and yourselves can enjoy a birthday drink on me (until the money runs out, or the bar runs dry!).

“The hope is to bring people together on the day, whilst recognising that many folk who bought my records or showed me support over the years, could do with a wee party, as we come out of Covid and hit potential financial struggles.

“I’ll announce the full list of pubs and locations tomorrow, so if there’s one near you please head over on Monday, show your support and raise a toast to me on my birthday!”

Happy birthday Paul Heaton.

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