Is the three-martini lunch dead?

In the early '70s I worked as a draftsman in a large engineering firm. We worked 40 hours a week, with a 30-minute lunch break. We barely had enough time for a peanut butter "foldover" and soup, so it felt appropriate to put one day aside to compensate for the lack of nutrition. It was the birth of our three-martini lunch.

We found an excellent spot on Lake Union, just minutes from the office, called Jack McGovern's.

There were two major attractions, the first being a cranberry-cream cheese sandwich topped with layers of fresh turkey.

The second delight was what we called a 2-pound double martini served in a long-stemmed glass that had a light layer of frost from the contents within and a huge olive with a deep-red pimento stuffed inside it.

As we were served this treat, we applauded our waitress for not having spilled a single drop. In perfect unison, we held our martinis high and toasted the end of another work week.

That first sip sent warmth all the way down, followed by an uncontrollable smile. After a few bites of our sandwiches, I caught the eye of our waitress, and she understood it was time for another round.

One other lure to attend these lunches was the weekly lingerie shows on Fridays. This particular show always called for a third martini.

After the meal, the martinis and the lingerie show, we returned to work.

As our group walked by the office manager's office, he leaned out and said, "Gentlemen, reflect this time spent on your business lunch on your time cards, and do not bill the clients."

Soon the word spread around the office about our lunch group, and our little lunch reservations grew from the original four to 20-plus. It truly had become a Friday ritual.

One day, the owner of the lingerie shops phoned to let me know of the upcoming Christmas lunch and lingerie show that was to be held at the Windjammer restaurant.

Since everyone in our office wanted to attend, it was difficult to find someone to stay behind and answer the switchboard. This was resolved by the flipping of a coin.

With prior planning between me and the owner of the lingerie shops, the models would seek out the men in the suits from the office and pay particular attention to them by sitting on their laps.

The day of the luncheon arrived and our group showed up well ahead of time, eager to enjoy the holiday festivities.

We were, by far, more punctual then we ever were at work. In fact, one co-worker who had called in sick to work still made it to the lunch. Talk about dedication.

The show - emceed by Jack Morton and the late Bob Hardwick, both of KVI Radio fame - was a success, especially when the models mingled right on cue with "the suits" from the office. We all laughed and applauded their plight.

The three martini lunch of the 70's was a common theme across the nation, which eventually gave way to the physical fitness craze. Many workers in our firm joined the same gym, and soon, pumping iron replaced hoisting martinis.

The pendulum seems to have swung both ways, and now a martini in the evening on an occasional Friday is more the norm after a hard week at work.

Is the martini lunch really dead? Certainly, in my crowd, it is.

Richard Carl Lehman is a Madison Park resident. Send e-mail to him at

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