The liquid lunch is long gone and alcohol’s purported effect on work and wellbeing ranges fromunfathomable to downright scary. Some experts say a glass a day works wonders. Others claim even the occasional snifter could take years off your life. But sobriety seems to be on the rise. So, will the after-work drink go the way of ‘social smoking’ and be relegated to a wind-swept sin-bin, or is there still time at the bar? Monocle culture editor and long-time tippler Rob Bound investigates.

LAST WORD

Fancy a drink?

Fancy a drink?

The liquid lunch is long gone and alcohol’s purported effect on work and wellbeing ranges from unfathomable to downright scary. Will the after-work drink go the way of ‘social smoking’ and be relegated to a wind-swept sin-bin, or is there still time at the bar? Monocle culture editor and long-time tippler Rob Bound investigates.

A month ago, a Farewell invitation landed on my desk. A Marylebone institution was set to mix its final Martinis, dispatch its terminal Gin & French – and inevitably bother its lily-livered, yoga ’n’ granola neighbours by putting the world to rights on a smoky pavement until silly o’clock turned into tomorrow. God rest its soul, for it certainly had one to rest.

This place was, for me, a regular after-work joint; a halfway-through-the-day haven when necessity dictated and, occasionally, a morning-after-the-night-before surgery. A sort of secular church whose stained-glass window helped with the hint of holiness, and an establishment that was both a port in a storm 
and an island of louche maturity.

No-go area

So, on a Wednesday evening at five, I joined some old pals, seasoned pros and colleagues past for a final Farewell. But I went without a single contemporary. The international staff of a bright, young media company were having none of it. Protein shakes prevailed and they all scurried home.

Where were the twenty-somethings, fixing an eloquent flourish to the sentence of their day? What about folks nipping in for a snifter before Tubing home for kiddies’ bath-time with a spring in their step? Indeed, where was the after-work crowd? Have the humble pint and the cheeky glass of Picpoul become hoary relics of the ‘old way of working’ – and if so, what’s replacing them and why? Do we have a situation here? 

Honed not hammered

You know the facts: 20 pubs close a week in the UK. Rents across the capitals of Europe are rising, while reports about the harmful effects of alcohol mean the un-rebellious young drink less than the old. Meanwhile, gym membership is at an all-time high and flattering selfies of spin-class bodies litter social media – indeed, they are the holiday slides du jour. The after-work drink is an endangered species. And, for that brave, new workforce hogging the staff washrooms as they change into their Lycra, it’s less a case of saving a cuddly panda than giving the kiss of life to a blobby and venomous jellyfish. The Dog & Duck is losing out to the dumbbell economy.

 

LAST WORD

Gym membership is at an all-time high and flattering selfies of spin-class bodies litter social media. The after-work drink is an endangered species”​​

Step back

Life evolves and habits change, but isn’t the Instagram-addicted, ruthlessly focused gym bunny as delusional and self-mythologising as the chap who has one for the road? I see them as flip-sides of the same coin. I got my first job in TV by having a roaring afternoon with a media mogul, who just happened to be there. My current post was cemented by a decent CV and an ability to string a sentence together – but it came from meeting my boss at a party. I’m going to hazard the notion that I wouldn’t be writing this if I’d been training for a half-marathon 20 years ago rather than being keen to stretch my social muscles.

Back in Marylebone, one of the best-attended new spots in the neighbourhood is a boxing gym. Not an East End place where a wizened geezer in a pork-pie hat bullies City strays into shape, but a matt-black palace of oxygen supplements and ripple-muscled rectitude. It has a state-of-the-art, nightclub-standard sound system and a membership that look like they should wear capes. I know this because there is a huge, street-level picture-window so members can see you seeing them because they think you’d like to be them. In truth, it’s actually a place where you pay large sums of money to get punched in the face. I was going to extend this as a metaphor, but I don’t think it needs it. I, my pals, will meet you at the bar. But will you meet me?​ 

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Gym membership is at an all-time high and flattering selfies of spin-class bodies litter social media. The after-work drink is an endangered species”​

A month ago, a Farewell invitation landed on my desk. A Marylebone institution was set to mix its final Martinis, dispatch its terminal Gin & French – and inevitably bother its lily-livered, yoga ’n’ granola neighbours by putting the world to rights on a smoky pavement until silly o’clock turned into tomorrow. God rest its soul, for it certainly had one to rest.

This place was, for me, a regular after-work joint; a halfway-through-the-day haven when necessity dictated and, occasionally, a morning-after-the-night-before surgery. A sort of secular church whose stained-glass window helped with the hint of holiness, and an establishment that was both a port in a storm 
and an island of louche maturity.

No-go area

So, on a Wednesday evening at five, I joined some old pals, seasoned pros and colleagues past for a final Farewell. But I went without a single contemporary. The international staff of a bright, young media company were having none of it. Protein shakes prevailed and they all scurried home.

Where were the twenty-somethings, fixing an eloquent flourish to the sentence of their day? What about folks nipping in for a snifter before Tubing home for kiddies’ bath-time with a spring in their step? Indeed, where was the after-work crowd? Have the humble pint and the cheeky glass of Picpoul become hoary relics of the ‘old way of working’ – and if so, what’s replacing them and why? Do we have a situation here? 

Honed not hammered

You know the facts: 20 pubs close a week in the UK. Rents across the capitals of Europe are rising, while reports about the harmful effects of alcohol mean the un-rebellious young drink less than the old. Meanwhile, gym membership is at an all-time high and flattering selfies of spin-class bodies litter social media – indeed, they are the holiday slides du jour. The after-work drink is an endangered species. And, for that brave, new workforce hogging the staff washrooms as they change into their Lycra, it’s less a case of saving a cuddly panda than giving the kiss of life to a blobby and venomous jellyfish. The Dog & Duck is losing out to the dumbbell economy.

Step back

Life evolves and habits change, but isn’t the Instagram-addicted, ruthlessly focused gym bunny as delusional and self-mythologising as the chap who has one for the road? I see them as flip-sides of the same coin. I got my first job in TV by having a roaring afternoon with a media mogul, who just happened to be there. My current post was cemented by a decent CV and an ability to string a sentence together – but it came from meeting my boss at a party. I’m going to hazard the notion that I wouldn’t be writing this if I’d been training for a half-marathon 20 years ago rather than being keen to stretch my social muscles.

Back in Marylebone, one of the best-attended new spots in the neighbourhood is a boxing gym. Not an East End place where a wizened geezer in a pork-pie hat bullies City strays into shape, but a matt-black palace of oxygen supplements and ripple-muscled rectitude. It has a state-of-the-art, nightclub-standard sound system and a membership that look like they should wear capes. I know this because there is a huge, street-level picture-window so members can see you seeing them because they think you’d like to be them. In truth, it’s actually a place where you pay large sums of money to get punched in the face. I was going to extend this as a metaphor, but I don’t think it needs it. I, my pals, will meet you at the bar. But will you meet me?​ 

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Bridgepoint  |  The Point  |  May 2018  |  Issue 33