A story in yesterday's late edition may have implied that Metro offers hotel rooms to its employes who attend company parties. Metro only encourages all employes not to drink and drive and supplies free passes system-wide for employes.
In Washington, where the elbow-rubbing of industry and government gave rise to the three-martini lunch, corporate reps and business people are hearing that inebriated holiday partygoers are the pits.
Groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which have waged long and loud campaigns to raise drinking ages and stiffen penalties, have made drunk driving a hot issue. Police have stepped up patrols; some states have put teeth in their sentencing procedures; top-40 radio stations broadcast warnings; Montgomery County liquor stores sell alcohol in paper bags with "If you drink, don't drive" slogans printed on them.
So along with the cold cuts and cocktails, an increasing number of organizations -- especially those with special interests, such as insurance companies, legal firms, even the Metro bus system -- are offering rides and even hotels rooms for employes who party too heartily.
WTTG-Channel 5, for example, which schedules extra public service announcements on the subject during the holiday season, feted more than 300 employes and guests at the Vista International Hotel last weekend, and then picked up the tab for a half-dozen overnight stays.
At WDVM-Channel 9, where the antidrunk driving editorial is a trademark, the office party is now a daytime function, limited to wine and beer. "It's not one of those 'let's got to the Shoreham and get ripped' affairs," said a staffer.
At their Christmas party Dec. 2, Geico Insurance Co.'s employes were reminded of the company's Project LIFT -- "Leave in a Free Taxi" -- which operates the year round. According to Gary Smith, Geico's assistant vice president for communications, Geico employes may call taxis for themselves, or for a friend who is too intoxicated to drive, and the company will reimburse the employe up to $25, "no questions asked."
"It shows our employes that we're concerned about their welfare both on and off the job," Smith said, "and it's just good business, especially if it keeps someone from being off the job" because of an accident or injury.
And at Arnold and Porter, Washington's silk-stocking law firm, corporate guests at the J.W. Marriott Hotel were served notice that rooms were available at a discount rate (although employes were expected to pay their own bill).
Public relations mogul Jay Jaffe put his wassail on wheels by throwing his annual bash aboard the American Zephyr, a luxury train-for-hire parked at Union Station (and, as it happens, a client of Jaffe Associates.)
"I figure most people will take the Metro over," Jaffe said, "but if I saw someone in bad shape, I'd put him in a taxi myself."
While companies are talking up public transportation, Metro employes are getting the same pitch. "All staffers have free passes," Metro spokesman Beverly Silverberg pointed out. "And general manager Carmen Turner has repeatedly stressed that employes should not drink and drive."
Many companies prefer preventive medicine to the hair of the dog. At the company party for 2,200 employes and guests of the various Erol's Video stores, held Dec. 2 at the Washington Hilton, the traditionally open bar was replaced by a cash bar that closed when dinner was served.
"Erol put out the word that anybody who wasn't up to driving could use the company charge accounts at Yellow Cab and Red Top," said Shukran de Lorme, assistant to owner Erol Onaran. "Last year, there were a couple of people who got a little drunk, but we saw to it they went home with their families."
The checks on traditional holiday cheer are fattening the checks received by area hotels, at least. Catering directors have taken to pushing discount room packages in the holiday brochures mailed to corporate planners. Staffers at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel even distributed flyers for their "take the elevator home" discounts at nearby restaurants and bars.
Daniel Dodson, director of catering at the Sheraton Washington Hotel, said that one Northern Virginia firm specifically scheduled its party for a weekend night so that employes could take advantage of the hotel's "hangover with us" rate ($59 a room). "They had about 2,300 guests," according to Dodson, "and they utilized about 600 rooms."
According to Vista International's director of catering Steven Prakash, his hotel has "gone out of our way to make it easy for partygoers to stay over. We're very aware of the problem -- after all, we're responsible, both morally and . . . otherwise."
Prakash said the Vista printed up hundreds of copies of its letter on the special overnight rate ($55) for each corporate client to distribute to workers. According to Prakash, one telecommunications corporation slipped the flyers into employes' paychecks. Another company put two RSVP check-offs on its employes' invitations: one for the party, and one for room reservations.
Perhaps the ultimate solution is the Best and the BADD-est:
"Best Against Drunk Driving," as Best Co. spokesman Charles Kouns put it. "The owners are adamant that no liquor be served at company functions."