Changing Times Dept: Drinking Alcohol at Lunch

When Mad Men first came on, there was a amount of discussion about the large amount of routine drinking that went on in the offices of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. I wasn’t in the workforce yet during the early years of MM and even though I was during the later years, it wasn’t at the level that kept a stocked bar in the credenza.

But I very much remember in the early and mid '80’s always drinking booze at lunch on workdays. I remember working for a major arts organization and a group of us staffers wouldn’t go to lunch at a place that didn’t serve hard liquor. I don’t just mean a beer or glass of wine with your pizza. I do mean two margaritas with your Mexican food, or Jack Daniel’s & 7-Up with just about anything. This went on during the whole decade of the '80’s, as I recall.

Stopping at Happy Hour after work went on before this and after, too, but somewhere along the line, this practice of hard drinking at lunch just faded away. At least it did in the places I worked. Was it when restaurants started banning smoking, I wonder?

What do y’all remember about the practice of boozing it up at lunch with your office colleagues on workdays? Did you do it? Do you still do it? Was that just the nature of the '80’s?

*The Economist *on the Three Martini Lunch

My experience is that it varies with company culture; I worked at many places during the 90s where a beer or two at lunch was fine, and at one place where we regularly had a lot more than that.

I think at my current place of employment it wouldn’t be frowned on if someone had a few beers at lunch on a Friday, but I’m guessing it would be a problem if they did it regularly. Hard for me to really say, though, because I work remotely. I’m just going by my gut feelings with what I know of the place.

Personally, hell if I’m going to drink at lunch anymore. I barely even want to drink mid-day on vacations or weekends; more often than not it just makes me sleepy. Have a couple beers then going back to work sounds like absolute misery.

Around 1980, a colleague and I would go over to the taco place and have a beer with our big Friday lunch. I was still pretty young, and even a Budweiser would really destroy my higher brain functions - not drunk, not even close to it, but that splash of alcohol really shouted “Quittin’ time!” to my neurons. Friday afternoons at the bank (the long day, in those days - close at 6 instead of 3) were not a good time for us to handle complicated things.

Around 1995, a colleague and I had to go across town to spend two hours reviewing a new trade show setup at the provider’s shop. We stopped for lunch, which involved a pitcher of melon margaritas between us. We were NOT functional when we got back to work (again, on a Friday afternoon) and she probably shouldn’t have been driving.

I think that’s the only two times alcohol and work crossed paths, the odd party or out-of-town business evening aside. I did work (in the latter case) with a guy about my age who was a stone alcoholic and covered it so well that no one knew until he came to work with a ankle tracker for a month, on a home/work arrest for DUI.

I’ve never been able to drink at lunch and then go back to work. Partly because I only drink to excess. So I only drink when I’m “done for the day” - done working, done driving, done having to do anything responsible beyond keeping my trousers on when appropriate.

But I did work with some old-timers in the nineties who still practiced the three-martini lunch. Quite literally. Never understood how they could go back to work and be productive after that, but they did. They’re all dead now, unsurprisingly!

Circa 1980, northern California, I worked in the IT department of a big corporation. All my colleagues were in their mid to late-20s; their managers were in their 30s.

Going out for lunch usually involved drinking, and often getting hammered (and not going back to work). Plus everybody was dating everybody else; one of my colleagues sold coke on the side and was very popular on pay day; and the annual Christmas party – all the booze you can drink, free – was totally out of control.

Good lord, times have changed.

It’s still not completely frowned upon at lunchtime in London, but it certainly isn’t as prevalent as it used to be.

Back in the late 90s I was working in an ad agency which was a total Mad Men throw back. The Creative Director and Copy Director had an account at the local pub and would knock back 4 vodka and tonics each at lunch. Every day. I don’t ever remember seeing them eat anything. You would always make sure you had meetings with them in the mornings if you could. The Account Director had a drawer full of hard booze in her office (though people did whisper about that). The boardroom had a fully stocked drinks cabinet. We would regularly pull an all night shift to meet a pitch, then go off to the pub at lunch the following day and not make it back to work at all.

Oh, and everyone seemed to be having office affairs.

Nowadays, in the design agencies I work in, the odd client lunch may involve wine, and the odd Friday will include a beer or two at lunch. And there’s often a drinks trolley in the office at the end of the day on Fridays with wine and beer. But it’s pretty tame stuff in comparison.

A partner I worked with regularly at my first firm had several beers w/ lunch pretty much every day. We all knew that if we had bad news on a deal, it was best to approach him right after he came back from lunch… :slight_smile:

Just a side note, the agency featured in “Mad Men” is the not portrayed to be the norm, which is referenced in a couple episodes. This particular agency is considered to have a reputation for very heavy drinking. Unfortunately, I can’t recall the exact episodes where it is mentioned, maybe someone else on SDMB can provide a more exact reference. So basically, “Mad Men” is a portrayal of the heaviest drinking agency in an industry where wining and dining clients is very large portion of the job. I think nowadays drinking has been replaced by better pharmaceutical drugs to get you through the day, that is pure speculation on my part though.

I occasionally work with the London insurance community. Drinking at lunch still seems to be a regular event for them.

Oh yeah… the affairs… I forgot about those. I was having an affair with a colleague right around 1980, and we used to split a bottle of wine just about every day at lunch. And we thought no one knew. BWAH-HA-HA-HA!! Stupid. So stupid.

My gf works in advertising. Drinks with lunch is the norm, and on Fridays they have a happy hour complete with a kegerator.

Twenty years ago when I started my own business, I kept liquor/mixers and beer on site for after work (especially Fridays). I’ve also always been openly 420 friendly. Over time things have changed considerably, and other than the occasional birthday celebration, we all do our partying elsewhere.

I started working in an office environment in '89, so I missed most of the 1980s, from that perspective.

My first two jobs were with Fortune 500 consumer products companies. At both of those, drinking at lunch was not explicitly forbidden, but the culture of the companies strongly discouraged it, and so, it was something that you almost never saw (or, if it was done, it was done quietly and privately). Drinking at company events in the evening was more permissible, but even then, doing so to excess was unheard of.

I moved to an ad agency in 2000, and things were considerably looser. While most people probably did not drink at lunch on a regular basis, it did happen reasonably often (especially on Fridays, or during the holidays). We would also frequently have beer at agency parties in the late afternoon (such as celebrating a new account win), though this was partially helped by the fact that we had a major brewery as a client.

Do you think I’d go across town for a meeting and have lunch with a pitcher of 'ritas with a colleague I wasn’t… close to? :smiley:

We didn’t hide it but we were sensible at work. Most people who found out were flabbergasted - besides being a former swimwear model, she was a Swedish iceberg to most co-workers. Most people who hit on her, even in fun, came away with frost on their face.

She had warm spots, though. Especially after a pitcher of margaritas.