Last orders: has the liquid lunch had its day?

To his cost, ex-Glencore trader Andrew Kearns has found being hungover a sackable offence, but the liquid lunch shaped many a day in days gone by, says a wistful John Walsh

It’s a sad day for the lunchtime toper, the 3pm Falstaff, the disciple of Bacchus, the second-bottle-oh-go-on-then-let’s-have-a-third enthusiast. It’s sad, but there it is. You cannot take it for granted that life will feature daytime boozing any longer.

The test case was a man called Andrew Kearns, who worked for Glencore, the oil trading company, and brought a case for wrongful dismissal in the London High Court. He claimed the company had been wrong to sack him for being late or absent from work on 64 occasions, due to him being too hungover to come in. Mr Kearns, 38, who pulled in an annual salary of £140,000, insisted that drinking alcohol was a necessity in everyday business transactions, “an integral part of entertaining and building relationships with people.” He also opined that, at Glencore, “you could do what you liked, provided you make money.”

He was wrong. There turned out to be limits. Colleagues reported that Mr Kearns “acted strangely” after lunches, “shouted at seniors” and once deliberately broke a bottle of wine when meeting a Glencore bigwig. Perhaps he had lost the corkscrew, and was anxious to start the relationship-building without delay. Anyway, the last straw was a trip to Singapore when Kearns’s inability to bestir himself in the mornings lost him several vital meetings. The judge threw out his appeal, calling it “ludicrous” and a spokesman for the company said, portentously, “The days of the liquid lunch are over.”

Seriously? In some trades and professions, lunch is an important component, in which the need for person A to persuade person B to do something arduous and time-consuming is oiled and accelerated by copious amounts of wine. Publishing for instance. The agent or publisher traditionally took their author to dine at J Sheekey or the Garrick Club in London’s West End, flattered her or him about their brilliance, regaled them with soup, cod and trifle, and, halfway through the second bottle, extracted a promise that they’d deliver 80,000 words in nine month. Would they have said yes otherwise? And what will agents and publishers do now, without that second bottle of Cheval Blanc?  

Journalism, you’ll be unsurprised to hear, used to depend on the boozy lunch to operate at all. At the end of the Fleet Street era, all attempts to write an Important Leading Article for a 4pm deadline were abandoned at 1pm while the professional scribe relocated to El Vino’s shrine-like bar, to find several like-minded hacks ready with helpful suggestions as to the projected article’s progress. Refreshed by four glasses of Petit Chablis, and fully briefed on all shades of opinion about his subject, the journalist would reel back to the office and produce a thunderous 500 words of unarguable, Churchillian rhodomontade. 

In the US, the “three-martini lunch” was a staple of business practice for a simple reason: because conversation at lunch generally involved talking business, the cost of lunch could be tax deductible. Technically, you were still working as you drank the martinis, ate the lobster or steak and bantered with colleagues.   In 1978, President Gerald Ford said, “The three-martini lunch is the epitome of American efficiency. Where else can you get an earful, a bellyful and snootful at the same time?” Alas, the tax break was drastically reduced and lunchtime drinking fell out of favour. The 1960-ish scenes portrayed in Mad Men, of Don Draper and Roger Sterling flooring cocktails for two hours in a bar before weaving back to work and puking up, ended in the 21st century.

We’ve all had to become more efficient. More sober. Content with that delicious S. Pellegrino, that citric Oasis, or perhaps an energising skinny latte. But it’s possible to feel a tinge of nostalgia for something delightful that’s been lost. And I don’t mean the desire to shout at your boss, or to have a little nap at 4.05 in the afternoon.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
News
Johnny Handle, Northumberland, Ted Relph, President of Lakeland Dialect Society, and Sid Calderbank, Lancashire, founder of the National Dialect Day
newsMeet the enthusiasts determined to stop them dying out
News
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Sport
Rio Ferdinand returns for QPR
sportRio Ferdinand returns from his three-game suspension today
News
The Speaker of the House will takes his turn as guest editor of the Today programme
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
St Peter’s Seminary in Cardross. Argyll, has remained derelict for more than 25 years
arts + ents
News
people

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
Sport
Billy Twelvetrees will start for England against Australia tomorrow with Owen Farrell dropping to the bench
rugbyEngland need a victory against Australia today
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
books
Sport
Tyson Fury poses outside the Imperial War Museum in south London ahead of his fight against Dereck Chisora
boxingAll British heavyweight clash gets underway on Saturday night
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager - Bristol

    £31000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the UK, the major project fo...

    h2 Recruit Ltd: Sales Executive - Meetings & Events (MICE) - £40,000 OTE

    £30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits: h2 Recruit Ltd: Are you a high achieving...

    h2 Recruit Ltd: Account Executive - Hotel Reservation Software - £40,000 OTE

    £30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits: h2 Recruit Ltd: A rapidly growing Hotel ...

    Recruitment Genius: Tyre Technician / Mechanic

    £15000 - £16800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Tyre Technician / Mechanic is...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

    Christmas Appeal

    Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
    Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

    Is it always right to try to prolong life?

    Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

    What does it take for women to get to the top?

    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
    Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

    Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

    Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
    French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

    French chefs campaign against bullying

    A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

    Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
    Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

    Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

    Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
    Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

    Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

    Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
    Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

    Paul Scholes column

    I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
    Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game