The 5 à 7…

Sure beats working...

One of this city’s most durable institutions is the 5 à 7 – which basically alludes to drinks from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. (at least officially speaking, and it’s NOT the same thing as its counterpart in France). It roughly corresponds to what I would call in the states “happy hour,” except that it’s a bit more of a serious affair. Happy hour in the states has basically evolved into an excuse for bars to soak the customer in cheap beer bought at a bulk rate. Soaked in booze, these patrons usually end up buying hot wings and nachos at the retail price.

Like many other things in the states, what started out as something fun and innocent has been completely repackaged into a commerce-driven mission of advertising-reinforced fun.

But in Montreal the 5 à 7 is more of a working cocktail hour, and you can learn a lot about any town by watching how its workforce handles downtime. One 5 à 7 I attended recently for was divvied up into two parts:

Part One – Here is what we do, who we are, and how this works. Here is our role in the national marketplace and here’s how we cover the local one.

Part Two – Let’s watch the Habs in their playoff opener with the Boston Bruins. The best part about this section of the 5 à 7 was that several people who were going to attend the shindig voiced their uneasiness that – despite the presence of free alcoholic beverages – that all the work-talk would cut into the hockey game. So the editor actually arranged for the game to be shown at the event on a big-screen TV.

Other 5 à 7s I’ve attended have been less organized, more intimate, but no less work-related. Exchanging of cards, trading phone numbers, and discussing editorial strategies often ends up going down by the end of the evening. And what would end up being a blowing-off-steam period actually turns into a relaxing way to get a few things done without the tension.

That is, of course, unless the Habs are on.