Simon English: Schmoozing in the City has not gone away

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The Independent Online

Outlook The City is doing its entertaining in secret lately. In the old days, before 2007, being flash in public was definitely part of the fun. Why not? Everything was going swimmingly and the City was the heart of everyone's success. It had said this so often that people believed it.

Lately, with public hatred of financiers at all-time highs, a different ethos has taken hold. Memos have been written, the core message of which can be drummed down to this: don't get smashed in public. If you insist on embarrassing yourself with lap-dancers, don't get caught.

Last summer traders at Icap were told that The Box, an expensive burlesque club in Soho, was now on the "excluded list".

But entertaining clients remains as big a part of how business gets done in the City as ever, perhaps more so now that there is less trade to go around.

So there's been a boom in private dining in posh hotels. To get a private room in, say, the Dorchester, I'm told, you need to book about four months ahead. Morgan Stanley have got it every night till then (note to Morgan's lawyers and Dorchester PR people: I'm clearly exaggerating, put the phone down).

Morgan doubtless has a fine chef and a decent wine cellar, but if you entertain in-house, the boss gets to see exactly who you were schmoozing and just how much they put away. If you're off-campus, you might get away with just giving him a bill for the final amount, and bad behaviour will not be reported back.

It may not be an appealing sight, but perhaps the truest sign that the economy is turning will be when traders think it is again acceptable to act out in public places.