Well, that escalated quickly.

Pour One Out

Just six months after opening a cocktail lounge in its San Francisco offices, fintech startup Expensify is shutting down its decked-out company bar.

In a company blog post, Expensify CEO David Barrett admitted that the "secret experiment" behind the bar and coworking lounge, which was built into its $9 monthly membership and came complete with "a nightly sabered Champagne sunset toast," was yet another ploy to tempt employees back into the office following COVID-19 lockdowns.

The results of that experiment, the CEO said, are now in. For the most part, even a free, tricked-out bar that delivered drinks and cappuccinos straight to one's desk couldn't beckon employees at the remote-first company back into the office with any regularity — though it apparently did attract randos who would load up their bags with free cans of Liquid Death brand water.

As SFist pointed out, the Expensify lounge "experiment" was a very expensive one that involved the company paying a quarter of a million dollars for a liquor license, and although there haven't been any public tallies of how much the company spent on drinks and labor, Barrett's admission that the line for the lounge was sometimes out the door indicates that they were doing a hefty trade with very, very little money coming in from the bar itself.

Just Stay Home

The incident goes to show just how difficult it has been for managers to tempt their wary workers, who've long gotten a taste for the perks of working from home, to go back into the office with any kind of regularity.

In his blog post, Barrett declared that if even a free, fancy cocktail lounge couldn't lure employees back to the office in a meaningful way, then the physical office is, as pundits have echoed, "dead."

"I think it's safe to say that anyone going to the office every day is likely going because they feel pressured to (either by their boss or their peers)," he wrote, "not because it's actually their preferred place to be."

This could be read as a potshot at Barrett's fellow tech CEOs who have reversed previous remote work commitments and tried to force employees back into physical office spaces — a move that many workers have responded to by simply quitting.

Adding to its long list of employee perks, which includes its Offshore program that pays for workers to take remote work trips together once a year, Expensify will be opening another bar next to its Portland, Oregon headquarters — although that one won't give out free drinks with subscriptions.

As for the "epic" SF Expensify Lounge, Barrett said that as of November 1, it will become "an exciting but finite chapter in Silicon Valley lore."

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