The three-martini lunch is a term used in the United States to describe a leisurely, indulgent lunch enjoyed by businesspeople or executives. It refers to a common belief that many people in such professions have enough leisure time and wherewithal to consume more than one martini during the work day. Steaks, oysters and lobster are among dishes cited as a staple of these lunches.
The three-martini lunch is no longer common practice for several reasons, including the implementation of "fitness for duty" programs by numerous companies, the decreased tolerance of alcohol use, a general decrease in available leisure time for business executives, and the social stigma attached to drinking during the day in the United States.
President John F. Kennedy called for a crackdown on such tax breaks in 1961, but nothing was done at the time. Jimmy Carter condemned the practice during the 1976 presidential campaign. Carter portrayed it as part of the unfairness in the nation's tax laws, claiming that the working class was subsidizing the "$50 martini lunch". This was because a "rich businessman" could write off this type of lunch as a business expense. After the election his opponent, incumbent President Gerald Ford, in a 1978 speech to the National Restaurant Association, responded with: "The three-martini lunch is the epitome of American efficiency. Where else can you get an earful, a bellyful and a snootful at the same time?"
The entertainment deduction, which includes meals, was reduced to 80 percent in 1987 and to 50 percent in 1994.
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- Drummond, Mike, "What Ever Happened to the 3 Martini Lunch?", The Charlotte Observer, March 14, 2005 (URL last accessed October 30, 2006)
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