In my experience, the driest of companies usually has a drop of grog lurking somewhere. ICI's headquarters in Millbank is bereft of booze . . . except for Sir Denys Henderson's personal drinks cabinet.
Michael Green, the boss of Carlton Communications, has been known to bend his teetotal rules. One guest, appalled at the prospect of an alcohol-free lunch, declared: 'Mr Green, we'd all get along a lot better if I had a gin and tonic.' A secretary was dispatched to the off-licence.
American corporations seem to be the strictest, followed by oil companies. The nearest you get to a drink at Shell is a grim alcohol-free wine in the canteen.
Several companies compromise by permitting aperitifs, but no wine with the meal. Glynwed, the Brummie engineer that makes Aga cookers, is one. Cazenove, the powerful City stockbroker, is another. Fund managers from M&G, when invited to lunch at Tokenhouse Yard, have been known to arrive carrying clinking carrier bags.
Arab-based organisations are understandably difficult. Staff at the London office of the Kuwait Investment Office have to ask permission from their superiors before accepting a glass of wine when they go out to lunch.
However, lunchtime drinking is alive and well in some quarters, and no more so than in the boardrooms of the big drinks companies. I'm told the waiter who wheels in the groaning drinks trolley at the Guinness HQ in Portman Square really ought to have an HGV licence.Reuse content