Thanks for sharing. I’ve been working in startups for about 10 years, from DC to California. To be frank, it seems like you’ve just worked for some really awful people the likes of which I’ve never encountered in my employment history. Granted, I’ve known people who really should never drink around co-workers, but it takes a special brand of asshole to give somebody guff about not wanting to drink or eat meat and that speaks more to that specific individual’s upbringing and lack of maturity than the culture of startups.
Startups tend to center their corporate culture around comfort. In most cases, you don’t wear anything you normally wouldn’t wear. You might speak more colloquially or even curse in meetings. Because of this, an awful person might feel comfortable giving someone a hard time about not drinking just like an awful person might feel comfortable about letting off a supposedly light race joke. It’s the ugly side of things for sure when people don’t know how to draw the line. Startups taking the taboo out of mixing work and alcohol is just like them taking the taboo out of dressing casually in the workplace — all good until somebody messes it up for everyone and shows up in Daisy Dukes. I think it’s a worthy discussion though because while folks my age can understand how things were before startups, there’s a new crop coming in who won’t know any different than this current culture being the norm. New Rule #1 — Don’t be that guy that ruins Keg Friday for everybody by pressuring people into drinking or getting belligerent.