Free lunch

free lunch is a dirty That enticement offers a meal at no cost in order to Attract customers and Increase revenues from other offerings. It was a tradition once common in saloons in many places in the United States, with the sentence Appearing in US literature from about 1870 to the 1920s. These establishments include a “free” lunch, varying from easy to quite elaborate, with the purchase of at least one drink. These free lunches were typically worth more than the price of a single drink. [1] The saloon-keeper relies on the expectation that they would buy patronage for other times of day.

Free food or drink is Sometimes Supplied in contemporary times, Often by gambling establishments Such As casinos .

The saying ” there is no such thing as a free lunch ” refers to this custom, meaning that things are always paid for in some way.


In 1875, The New York Times wrote of elaborate free lunches as a “custom peculiar to the Crescent City” ( New Orleans ), saying, “In every one of the drinking saloons, which is a meal of the day is served free every The time of the day is long before the war is over . As described by this reporter,

A free lunch-counter is a great leveler of classes , and when a man takes up the position of one of them he must give up all hope of appearing either dignified or consequential. In New Orleans all classes of the people can be seen partaking of these free meals and pushing and scrambling to be helped a second time. [At one saloon] six men are engaged in preparing for the crowd that stands in front of the counter. I noticed that the price for every kind of liquor was fifteen cents, punches and cobblers costing more than a glass of ale .

The repast included “huge dishes of butter,” large baskets of bread, “a monster silver boiler with a most excellent oyster soup,” “a round of beef that must have weighed at least forty pounds,” vessels filled with potatoes, stewed mutton , stewed tomatoes, and French macaroni The proprietor said that the bosses included “at least a dozen old fellows” who would like to have a drink, eat a dinner which would have cost them $ 1 in a restaurant, and then complain that the beef is tough or the potatoes watery. ” [1] ($ 0.15 in 1875 is roughly equivalent to $ 2.94 today; $ 1 in 1875 to $ 19.62 today) [2]

Free-lunch fiend

The nearly indigent “free lunch” was a recognized social type. An 1872 New York Times story about “loafers and free-lunch men” who ” toil not, neither do they spin , yet they’re getting along,” “visiting saloons, trying to bum drinks from strangers; “should this inexplicable lunch-fiend not to be called to drink, he devours whatever he can, and, while the bartender is occupied, tries to escape unnoticed.” [3]

In American saloon bars from the late 19th century until Prohibition, bouncers had, in addition to their role of removing drunks who were too intoxicated to keep buying drinks, fighters, and troublemakers, the unusual role of protecting the saloon’s free buffet. To attract business, “… many saloons with a” free lunch “-usually well salted to inspire drinking, and the saloon” bouncer “to hear [those with too] hearty appetites”. [4]

The custom was well-developed in San Francisco . An 1886 story on the fading of the days of the 1849 California Gold Rush calls “the free lunch for the only landmark of the past.” It asks “How do all these idle people live” and asserts, “It’s the free lunch system that keeps them alive. [5] Rudyard Kipling , writing in 1891, noted how he

See More in the Same Series: Bad pictures of a girl in the bathroom. It was the institution of the “free lunch” I had struck. You’re getting a drink and you’re going to eat. For something less than a rupee a day a man can feed himself sumptuously in San Francisco, Even Though he be a bankrupt. Remember this if you are stranded in these parts. [6]

A 1919 novel compared a war zone to the free lunch experience by saying “the shells and shrapnels was flyin round and over our heads thicker than hungry bums [(homeless people)] around a free lunch counter .” [7]


The temperance movement versus the free lunch as the consumption of alcohol. Year 1874 history of the movement writes:

In the cities, there are prominent rooms on fashionable streets that hold out the sign “Free Lunch.” Does it mean that some [philanthropist] … has gone out of fashion? Oh, no! … there are men who do not care for their institution. Out of sight is a well-filled bar, which is the center to which all these other things are made to revolve. All of the fascinations and attractions are so many things to look forward to. Thus consummate art is the work of death, and virtue, reputation, and every one is sacrificed at these worse than Moloch shrines. [8]

A number of writers, however, suggest that the free lunch actually performed a social relief function. Reformer William T. Stead commented that in winter in 1894 the suffering of the poor in need of food

Would Have beens very much Greater Had It not-been for the help Given by the labor unions to Their members and for an agency qui, without pretending to be of much account from a charitable point of of view, nevertheless fed more hungry people in Chicago than all the other agencies, religious, charitable, and municipal, put together. I refer to the Free Lunch of the saloons. There are six to seven thousand saloons in Chicago. In one half of these a free lunch is provided every day of the week.

He states that “in many cases is a free lunch,” citing an example of a saloon which did not insist on a drink purchase, but commented that this saloon was “better than its neighbors.” Stead quotes a newspaper’s estimate that the saloon keepers fed 60,000 people a day and that this represented a $ 18,000 contribution to the relief of the destitute in Chicago. [9]

In 1896, the New York State legislature passed the Raines law which was intended to regulate liquor traffic. Among its many provisions, one forbade the sale of liquor unless accompanied by food; another outlawed the free lunch. In 1897, however, it was amended to allow free lunches again. [10]

See also

  • Buffet
  • Happy hour
  • National School Lunch Act
  • No Free Lunch (organization)
  • No free lunch in search and optimization
  • Oslo breakfast , free breakfast
  • Pending Meal
  • potluck
  • The Free Lunch Is Over
  • Western saloon


  1. ^ Jump up to:b “Free Lunch in the South.” The New York Times, Feb. 20, 1875, p. 4. The value of the lunch, this source speaks to the bosses who “take one fifteen cent drink [and] eat a dinner which would have cost them $ 1 in a restaurant.”
  2. Jump up^ “Today” meaning c. 2010. Figures from “The Inflation Calculator” . . Retrieved 2011-04-30 .
  3. Jump up^ “The Loafer and Free-Lunch Men;” The New York Times, June 30, 1872, p. 6
  4. Jump up^ Drinking in America: A History – Search for Consensus: Drinking and War Against Pluralism, 1860-1920 – Lender, Mark Edward & Martin, James Kirby, The Free Press, New York, 1982
  5. Jump up^ “Old Things Passing Away,” The New York Times, March 5, 1886, p. 2
  6. Jump up^ Kipling, Rudyard (1930). American Notes . Standard Book Company. (published in book form in 1930, based on essays which appeared in periodicals in 1891)
    • American Notes by Rudyard Kipling at Project Gutenberg
  7. Jump up^ Barney Stone (1919). Love Letters of a Rookie to Julie . The Sherwood Company.
    • Love Letters of a Rookie to Julie by Barney Stone at Project Gutenberg
  8. Jump up^ Stebbins, Jane E .; TAH Brown (1874). Fifty Years History of the Temperance Cause: Intemperance the Great National Curse . Hartford, Connecticut: L. Stebbins. ,p. 133
  9. Jump up^ Stead, William T. (1894). If Christ Came to Chicago . Laird & Lee . ,pp.139-140
  10. Jump up^ “Revolt in Clubdom; Probability of Passage of Raines Law Amendments Causes Consternation; Free Lunch to Come Back.” The Boston Globe,April 9, 1897, p. 12