To Beer or Not to Beer: Do You Liquid Lunch?

The other day I went out to have a quick lunch with a good friend of mine.  Nothing fancy, just a cheap pizza place that just happened to have a few excellent beers on tap.  (I’m not 100% sure, but I think it might be illegal here in Canada to eat pizza without drinking beer.)

Since I’m self-employed, had no need to drive, and was enjoying the first nice Friday afternoon in what seemed like an eternity, I opted to have a beer with my pizza.  I tried to get my beer-loving friend to join me, but he felt that it wasn’t appropriate given that he still had to go back to his office.

It got me thinking over the past week:  When is it okay to have an adult beverage?

When I was a cable guy, driving a company vehicle – no question.  And let me say this clearly – if you are driving, there’s no acceptable time to have a drink.  But when I got into the advertising world and learned that a beer fridge in the office was not grounds for immediate termination – let’s just say I didn’t think it was that big of a deal to have a “pop” and then walk back to a communications position in an office building.

Now, there’s a world of difference between wanting a drink and needing a drink – and if you are in the latter stage on a regular basis, you might want to consider asking for help.

My question to the folks in WorkAwesome:  Is there an acceptable time to have a drink during the work day?  Do you take part in a “liquid lunch” ritual?

Popular search terms for this article:

beer at lunch, drinking beer at work, drinking during work hours, drinking at lunch, drinking during the day, beer with lunch, beer before work, drinking during lunch, drinking while working, drinking before work

After spending way too long in the corporate world, Jason has switched to full-time freelancing. With any luck you enjoyed this article - and if you need one of your very own, give him a shout! @brandscaping on the twitter, or at


  1. Zach on the 25th June

    Where I work, we usually have a set day (Tuesday) where my office goes out to get lunch + beer. Karl Strauss is usually the default, but we mix it up sometimes.

    • Jason Finnerty on the 25th June

      Sounds like a nice benefit Zach – does it ever get out of control?

  2. Colin on the 25th June

    I would say more than one beer would be inappropriate. If it’s not specifically defined by company policy.

    However I have worked at companies where alcohol consumption during work hours is clearly defined in their policies.

    One company didn’t allow it at all especially when meeting with vendors offsite.

    My current company happens to have three bars onsite. The policy is: Yes one beer is allowed during a business lunch offsite during work hours. No alcohol consumption onsite during work hours. Three alcoholic beverages onsite are allowed after work hours and if you’re not in company uniform.

    • Jason Finnerty on the 25th June

      Hey Colin,

      I kinda like that there is a structured policy around this. You can have fun, and you don’t have to worry about one idiot abusing it and ruining it for everyone else.

  3. Jonathan on the 25th June

    Whenever I get the chance to eat lunch at a nearby pub, I always grab a beer.

    IMO, if the beverage won’t interfere with your professionalism once you get back to work, go on and enjoy one! If you think it may interfere with your productivity later, then opt for something else. A beer or cocktail is just a drink, but what matters most is how you conduct yourself while having it and after you’re done.

    That said, drinking *while on the job* is not appropriate or professional, unless it’s the company party.

    • Jason Finnerty on the 25th June

      I agree – if you’re adult enough to enjoy an adult beverage – go ahead.

  4. Giles on the 25th June

    I work in book publishing, a field that used to be replete with liquid lunches. However, they are now far and few between. So much so that I don’t think I’ve ever ordered a glass of wine or beer at lunch unless the other person did first. Of course I’m always relieved when someone else does so! Maybe everyone feels that way and we’re all living some stupid comedy of manners. That aside I am never offended by someone having one drink and think it can lead to more productive. It sets an easy tone for conversation as long as there is no underlying source contention in the meeting.

    • Jason Finnerty on the 25th June

      Giles – I think you hit it on the head.

      that’s pretty much what i’ve been thinking all week – is “the comedy of manners” (well said!) preventing us from enjoying life?

      Is it time to start being the first to have that beer at lunch? I guess it comes down to what type of message are you sending. If your business/industry can handle it, can you?

      as Ken says below – everything in moderation.

  5. Jestep on the 25th June

    One beer on a Friday… Who cares.

    Getting hammered, or if this becomes a daily event, probably not so good.

    However, some companies are very strict when it comes to this. Legally speaking, there are probably huge liabilities if employees have had anything to drink at all. Looking at large corporations, banks, etc., I probably wouldn’t consider it.

    Many people just aren’t comfortable drinking anything and going back to work, or they just feel that it is inappropriate, which I completely respect as well.

    • Jason Finnerty on the 25th June

      Hey Jestep,

      I agree – but I’m just curious if this is changing. People, and businesses, seem to be more comfortable outside of the norm. While I don’t think anyone is going to be advocating the liquid lunches that made the 80’s infamous, I do think it is becoming less of a faux pas to have an adult beverage when you see fit.

      thanks for commenting,


    • Jason Finnerty on the 25th June


      and no – I havent had anything stronger than coffee today….

  6. Ashley Hill on the 25th June

    Considering I work from home, and sometimes work at night, beer is on the menu.

    I did work in the office of one of my contract jobs and the fridge was usually stocked with beer and wine. We’d crack into some on Fridays or if we’re close to deadlines (where we’re staying late to finish stuff).

    • Jason Finnerty on the 25th June

      Hey Ash,

      Pretty much the same for me – except the beer at home part. I intentionally leave it off the menu, until my exercise regime begins (read: not gonna happen)

      The agency I used to work at was the same – and i rarely saw anyone have a second drink.

    • Ashley Hill on the 25th June

      Well I do a lot of cycling and kayaking, so exercise is rarely a problem 🙂

  7. HowToPlaza on the 25th June

    I think it’s a matter of personal choice. You can have a tumbler of beer with your breakfast for all that matters as long as you no longer vomit on people’s laps or onto your keyboard 🙂

    ~~ Sarah ~~

    • Jason Finnerty on the 25th June

      The “no vomiting on others” rule = words to live by.

  8. AW on the 25th June

    At my current job my boss took me out to lunch on my first day. It was a Mexican place with 30 different kinds of Tequila on the menu. When the waiter asked if we’d like a margarita my boss was quick to say “no thanks, we’re going back to work”. A month later when I had my orientation I learned that our company policy is absolutely no alcohol. However we did have an annual overnight company wide gathering where alcohol was available (cash bar) during dinner when we were technically on paid time (I’m hourly so it matters…). I did drink but thinking back technically I broke our policy. Anyways one guy partoke in a little too much alcohol, caused damage to the hotel, was sent home in the middle of the night and was fired on Monday morning.

    But back to drinking during the work day. Truthfully I think it’s very unprofessional. I happen to work with low income clients and if any of them came in after drinking I would question them. Why should I be held to a different standard? Even if you don’t meet with clients alcohol affects your judgement among other things. There’s a reason you’d never drink before an interview and it’s the same reason I think you should not drink at all in the workplace or during the work day. I think having rules about X number of drinks is acceptable isn’t good either because alcohol affects people in very different ways.

    I sure hope that those of you drinking during the work day are taking advantage of public transportation, cabs or walking (not biking though!)

    Don’t get me wrong I drink plenty in my free time but I feel like from 8-4:30 (my work hours) I am a representative of my company and I wouldn’t want to be under the influence of any amount of alcohol. Plus i’d lose my job 🙂

    • Jason Finnerty on the 25th June

      I think that’s a great point – thanks for bringing it up.

      If you have different standards between your office and your clients – somethings not quite right.

    • Rosabel on the 22nd June

      Gosh, I wish I would have had that information earelir!

  9. Enrique Ramírez on the 25th June

    As long as someone does not have personal interaction with other people (i.e. work from home) and does not get drunk (having a beer and getting drunk are two different things), I have no issue with alcohol.

    If you’re going to interview a client, I’d find it really unprofessional to have alcoholic breath. Then again, offering scotch to the client and drinking along with him may be a good tactic depending on the context (I’ve find lots of lawyers do this pretty much on a daily basis).

    Since I work from home and I just LOVE beer, I usually go out to the yard, sit under a parasol in the table we have there, open a beer and work my hours away. This are the times I’m more productive, I may add. Of course, one or two beers tops. Getting drunk while working can’t be that good of an idea.

    • Ken Kurosawa on the 25th June

      I agree, as long as we’re able to exercise moderation, I don’t see anything wrong.

    • Jason Finnerty on the 25th June

      Good point Enrique – who needs retirement when you can walk out the back door, have a drink, sit down and still make money?!

  10. James on the 25th June

    I allow everyone to have a few drinks after 4, nothing out of hand, ends up most leave work a lot later then five as work becomes more social.

    • Jason Finnerty on the 25th June

      Having fun at work James – excellent policy.

      Of course – i’ve had one boss that I didn’t want to drink with….

  11. Scott Hendrickson on the 25th June

    Isn’t being able to drink during lunch one of the reasons to be self-employed? 🙂

    • Jason Finnerty on the 25th June

      well – it’s certainly in the top 10!

  12. Cheryl on the 25th June

    I work on a campus where adult beverages are available almost steps from my work area. Unfortunately, I find even one drink can affect my ability to do my job well on return so I don’t personally partake unless I have a real straightforward afternoon planed (like filing, even if I have to recite the alphabet in my head while I do so). I think a lot depends on both one’s personal limits and one’s tasks as to whether it’s appropriate.

    • Jason Finnerty on the 25th June

      absolutely Cheryl – you have to know what your limits are, and the effect that alcohol can have on you. If it’s going to impact the quality of work you provide, you are jeopardizing your job.

      That being said – there are many folks that don’t have all their faculties during the work day on a semi-regular basis:
      – parents with colicky kids and 2 hours of sleep
      – the martyrs that come to work sick, but hopped up on cold remedies
      – folks with allergies, and the wonderful drugs that mask them
      – anyone with “relationship issues”


    • Ed G on the 26th June

      Same here, I know that my limit is one drink during lunch, but more than that and I either get sleepy or worse, think the code I’m writing is divinely inspired…until I look at it the next day 🙂 Although this is all moot as my employer has a strict no-alcohol policy at work and at company-sponsored functions due to a very bad situation that happened a while back.

  13. Tom on the 26th June

    When I still worked at an office I hardly ever had a beer during the day, simply because I tend to get pretty tired after even just one. The effect wears off after a couple of hours, but by then the workday would usually be over and I’d have spent the afternoon trying to stay awake, especially if I had to attend any meetings (which was the case much too often).

    But in Germany, especially in Bavaria with its beer gardens, it’s not uncommon for people to have a beer along with their lunch and I guess most companies don’t have strict policies (except where it’s more or less mandatory, like in construction, hospitals etc.).

    I work in a home office now and while I still never have a beer during lunch time (for the aforementioned reason), I love sitting on the patio in the late afternoon and having a beer or two. It’s perfect for unwinding and relaxing after a busy day. I usually return to work later in the evening, which is why I limit it to two beers at most and not let it become a daily routine.

    • Brandscaping on the 28th June

      Thanks for commenting, Tom. Sounds like you know your limits – but are comfortable with people choosing what’s right for them.
      I think the European liquor laws are a tad less imposing than they are here in North America – maybe when folks here become more comfortable with moderation, legislation won’t be required.

      dare to dream 🙂


  14. Brian Altenhofel on the 26th June

    A beer at lunch? That shouldn’t be a big deal.

    Where I am it is nothing to worry about, since they can only serve beer-flavored water. In the State of Oklahoma, it is illegal to serve or sell below room temperature any beer with an alcohol content higher than 3.2% by volume… meaning if you want “6-point” regular beer, you have to drive to a wet county in a bordering state or pay way too much at a liquor store.

    Besides, haven’t you heard of the Ballmer Peak?

    • Brandscaping on the 28th June

      Hey Brian – thanks so much for introducing me to the Ballmer Peak – love it!

      Maybe if I start thinking of it as liquid creativity….
      hmm – it’s almost time to test that theory!


      BTW – I hope you don’t work for the Oklahoma Tourism board – you’ve given me a strong (or not so strong) reason NOT to visit…
      3.2% by volume???

  15. Thomas on the 27th June

    I used to work as a programmer at a large software firm. A group of us would always go to the pub across the road on a Friday lunchtime for “one or two”, which turned into an extended lunchtime (without lunch!). We would then head back to work.

    Monday morning was usually spent debugging the code that was written on the Friday afternoon! 🙂

    In my case it would be a no, even after one beer I feel the effects and will end up tired. But if you have a better constitution than me then I don’t think a beer at lunchtime is a bad thing.

    As long as it doesn’t affect your performance and doesn’t become the norm, I don’t see any harm in it.

    • Brandscaping on the 28th June

      there’s a lot to be said about the productivity loss – I’m not sure about coding, but when it comes to writing, it’s often better to just write and then edit later. (for me, anyways) This usually results in a product that is much better than it would have been had I edited while I went.

      thanks for commenting


  16. rgrwkmn on the 27th June

    It is very rare that I have a beer at lunch since most lunch places around my office don’t serve alcohol and I usually don’t go out for a leisurely lunch anyway because I have a lot of work to do. However, if I have a lot of food it tires me out and drops my productivity much more than if I got a little buzzed. In fact, the times I’ve had a beer at lunch or in the office toward the end of the day I’ve had no problems continuing with my work as planned. Maybe there should be a policy about how much food one may eat before returning to work 😉

    • Brandscaping on the 28th June

      great point, roger.

      I am more lethargic after a high carb lunch than after a good pint – so thanks for helping me choose my next meal!


  17. Jeremy Campbell on the 28th June

    Sometimes when I need to kill off my slower brain cells I will have a beer so I can think clearer and faster. It also works well for writing blog posts too!

    • Brandscaping on the 28th June

      Ahh yes, the Cliff Claven principle. Excellent point, Jeremy. Thanks for sharing


  18. ThekingNight on the 17th September

    Personally i think you should be obligated for as many beers as long as you can keep your impression to a professional matter..

    What we put in our bodies should not reflect on our work ethic and if so then it should absolutely not be acceptable…

    personally i can have several beers before work and still perform just as good if not better at my job setting.

  19. Fred on the 26th December

    I own a company and trust me higher up the ladder you go the more alcohol happens. i would never allow any of my hourly employee to drink during work. On the other hand Most of my business lunches with clients involve a 3 drink minimum and I keep a bottle of bourbon in my desk for “those days”.

  20. bobbymac on the 9th May

    most of the contributors also seem to be divided fairly neatly into two camps: the camp of absolutely not and the camp of moderation. the latter camp posits that, as long as productivity/performance is uneffected, a drink (or more) in the middle of a workday is perfectly acceptable.

    and how, do you suppose, one is able to evaluate one’s own productivity/performance when one thrown back one or more? most of the respondents seem to agree that alcohol effects cognition/behavior to some extent, regardless of an individual’s ability to metabolize it. granting this, it sounds to me like a third party would almost certainly be needed to accurately field an estimate like this.

    and then there’s company-mandated prohobition. (notice that i didn’t write “company-enforced” prohibition, as mandating and enforcing are two entirely separate things, the former being geared largely toward the ends of avoiding litigation.) as @Brandscaping pointed out, any number of issues can cause an employee to perform suboptimally: sickness, kids, lack of sleep, “relationship issues”. well, i would ask, when are any of us immune to any of these, or any of the other myriad challenges that beset the quotidian? i cannot think of an example.

    that said, any answer to the question seems overwhelmingly arbitrary. any one answer is based on a combination of personal experience, consideration of the results of drinking, and the immediate geo-societal context in which our agents find themselves. thus, it seems to me, that there is no rule for drinking midday, and that the choice to do so is necessarily connected to other choices (such as where to work or eat, or who to socialize with and how, etc.).

    also, on the topic of productivity, i’d encourage everyone reading this to fast for, say, three days. then, eat an apple. wait about ten minutes and then tell me it’s not a drug.

  21. robert on the 28th July

    its ok whenever you feel like it, just make sure it doesn’t effect your performance on the job.

  22. almoore on the 5th September

    My company policy specifically states that there is to be no consumption of alcohol during the work day, including lunch. I did have a beer once on lunch, before I knew about the policy, and thought that everybody could tell. If they could, nobody said anything.

    I’ve been out with groups of coworkers since then when others had a beer and nobody batted an eye.

  23. Mohammod on the 7th October

    Since I am a English teacher I would say a Beer or two at lunch is no big deal. Just have some coffee or tea after to ensure that you do not get tired. Also, when teaching conversational English it actually makes for a more interesting afternoon particularly in Asia which is where I teach adults and college students. Cheers!!!!!

Add a Comment