Fall of the Petrus Five augurs ill for the City

Mixed fortunes: Dress-down Fridays and £44,000 drinks bills are out
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The Independent Online

Suddenly, there's a bull market for sobriety in the City. Not only do you now get sacked for ostentatious booze-ups, as five bankers did last week, but the days of dressing down now seem numbered.

Suddenly, there's a bull market for sobriety in the City. Not only do you now get sacked for ostentatious booze-ups, as five bankers did last week, but the days of dressing down now seem numbered.

Next Monday, Lehman Brothers will introduce a more formal dress code. It is one of two firms to order their staff to smarten up, especially on the infamous "dress-down" Fridays. Credit Suisse First Boston is the other.

A Lehman spokesperson said: "There's been a change in the working environment. We're moving away from the dot.com era and we felt it was necessary to reflect that, especially to our clients."

Even Annabel's, a posh night club where many a stockbroker unwinds after a hard day dealing, has now suspended its relaxed dress code.

It's not the only sign of change in the square mile. One young trader said that the climate in the City had changed enormously. "People are still doing coke, but a lot less than they were two years ago," he said. "Everything has become more calm and less extravagant. People are not as flippant as they were."

The image of yahoos braying details of their mega-salaries as they quaff fine wines by the bucket-load is, it seems, now being radically revised. The most obvious symbol of this was the tale of the Bankers' Binge.

When six highly successful investment bankers wandered into Gordon Ramsay's fashionable Petrus restaurant last summer and blew £44,000 on five bottles of the world's rarest vintages, they were lauded for their extravagance. Five of the six Barclays Capital bankers have now been sacked, their ostentation no longer fitting the City's image.

One of the five, Dayananda Kumar, who paid £9,000 towards the £44,000 bill even though he is teetotal, said last week: "It was a private dinner and the only reason there was any issue was because it got released to the press. The biggest problem is that nobody is prepared to eat in restaurants any more after big deals. The city used to prop up lots of expensive restaurants and I'm sure that they will struggle because of this whole affair."

The more solemn atmosphere reflects financial reality in the Square Mile. HSBC's full-year results tomorrow are expected to predict a difficult year ahead. The Bank Of England is likely to announce on Thursday that interest rates will stay at their low levels.

The gloom is having a knock-on effect in the luxury goods business. HR Owen's Ferrari and Maserati dealership in Canary Wharf, the City's eastern outpost, has been moved to Hertfordshire, home to footballers and celebrities. It has been replaced by one selling Smart Cars, each of which costs a mere fraction of the flashy, gas-guzzling roadsters that used to be on sale there.

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