WeWork, the now-global coworking space, has presented itself as providing more than just somewhere to set up your laptop to tenants ever since it opened its first location in 2011. They're not your landlords (literally, they're not—WeWork rents the spaces and then tricks them out with plush couches and standing desks), kids; they're curators of a cool office culture. Move your startup into one of its glassy pods not just for access to a printer, but because it serves as a shortcut to treating your employees to the Silicon Valley-inspired perks that'll make you feel like you're the next Facebook—perks like cold brew, community events, and unlimited, on-tap, free beer for everyone.
But now WeWork is tweaking that last perk, at least for tenants at their New York City locations. In an email that leaked on Tuesday, the company announced a pilot program that would last between 30 and 90 days in which members would be limited to four 12-ounce glasses of beer per day. Kegs will be unlocked by members' building key cards, which will track how much beer they've dispensed each day and cut them off after 48 ounces. Beyond that, the kegs will only work between the hours of noon and 8 PM.
(WeWork declined to comment to MUNCHIES on whether this policy is intended to expand beyond New York—they briefly replaced beer with kombucha in their California offices because of ambiguous liquor laws but, as of June, the booze is back—and instead provided the same statement that's been shared by other outlets, which mirrors the language in the leaked email.)
The change comes just weeks after a WeWork corporate employee filed a lawsuit alleging that she had been sexually harassed on two different occasions and that she was ultimately fired as a form of retaliation for reporting the incidents. In her complaint, she cited the excessive drinking culture as a contributing factor, and alleges that WeWork cofounder Adam Neumann "plied [her] with tequila shots during her interview with the company." She also said that when the company interrogated the men whom she reported for harassment, "In both instances, the male employee professed to be too drunk to remember the incident."
The culture outlined in the suit reflects an anecdote relayed by the New York Times earlier this year about a woman who was subject to "vaguely menacing flirtation" by men who had been drinking from the free beer tap while she made use of the coworking space. Following her complaint to the corporate headquarters, the woman was offered a desk on a different floor but opted to leave WeWork entirely.
In response to the sexual harassment suit, WeWork issued a statement denying any wrong doing, saying, "These claims against WeWork are meritless and we will fight this lawsuit. WeWork has always been committed to fostering an inclusive, supportive, and safe workplace."
At the time, the company declined to comment specifically on their corporate alcohol policy, and whether it differed from the free-for-all extended to their members, to Vox. Now, it has rolled out restrictions on what members can drink, but these restrictions explicitly do not apply to WeWork employees, like the woman whose suit is still pending in the Manhattan Supreme Court. WeWork has yet to clarify if this is an attempt to curb its "frat-boy culture" or just cut down on its booze outlays.
But four beers, on the house, is still a hell of a way to kick off your Monday afternoon… and a perk that will probably incite more jealousy among those in traditional offices than sympathy for the bygone days of unlimited access.