WeWork, the troubled co-working operation, is sobering up.
The company, once, at $47 billion, considered the most valuable startup in the U.S., is phasing out free beer and wine at its North American locations. This comes months after a bungled share sale forced out co-founder Adam Neumann and trashed investor appetite in money-losing startups.
Each floor of WeWork’s shared offices once had its own beer tap – offering a changing selection of local brews and even “hard” kombucha.
The loss of WeWorkers’ free beer allocation comes after its “Honesty Market” snack concession stands in many locations were also removed, apparently because of a lack of honesty.
The loss of free beer coincides with an effort by new management to reform the company’s image.
Neumann, who walked away from the company with an estimated $1.6 billion compensation package, once told people he liked how alcohol brings people together. He reportedly favored tequila, and stocked company retreats with cases of Don Julio 1942 at around $110 a bottle.
In 2018, former employee Ruby Anaya filed a lawsuit that shed light on alcohol consumption at the company, noting its “free beer on tap all day in all offices policy”.
Anaya claimed that she had been fired for reporting sexual assaults at two company events and that her assailants had also been too drunk from the free beer to remember the incidents. “In both instances, the male employee professed to be too drunk to remember the incident,” the complaint said.
The complaint also alleged WeWork’s headquarters hosted a happy hour every Friday. “Employees are all but mandated to attend. It starts at 4 PM,” the complaint read. She alleged that during her interview with the company, Neumann “plied” her with tequila shots.
WeWork denied the allegations: “WeWork has always been committed to fostering an inclusive, supportive, and safe workplace,” it said in a statement.
In the same year, WeWork began to dial back on beer allocations, limiting members to four 12-ounce glasses per day, and restricting taps to the hours of 12 PM to 8 PM. If that was the writing on the wall for free beer, WeWork’s management now plans to offer “soft” kombucha, seltzer, cold brew coffee and tea — and un-abusable fruit water.
Fallout from WeWork’s failure go public continues to be felt. Last week, the Goldman Sachs chief executive, David Solomon, disclosed the failed deal cost the bank $80 million. Softbank’s Masayoshi Son confirmed the investment, estimated at $18 billion, has taken a nearly $4.6 billion hit.
“I won’t make any excuses. It was a very harsh lesson,” he told investors in Tokyo in November.
On Thursday, the Architects’ Journal reported that WeWork’s chief architect, Bjarke Ingels, had been fired after being pictured with the far-right Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro.
Ingels responded to criticism of the meeting ahead of a planned development project calling it “an oversimplification of a complex world”.