A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from July 20, 2012
“When pleasure interferes with business, give up business” (business proverb)

Business people often try to avoid mixing business with pleasure. The usual rule applied is that if pleasure interferes with business, one should give up the pleasure because one’s livelihood is most important.

A humorous reversal is also a popular business proverb—“When pleasure interferes with business, give up business.” “When business interferes with pleasure, drop the business” has been cited in print since at least 1907, when it was said by a pastor who retired to play more golf.

The original expression might have included “drink(ing)” instead of “pleasure.” “If your drinking interferes with business, give up business” has been cited in print since at least January 1904. The drinking saying was printed on postcards in the early 1900s, but it’s not known if a postcard with the saying still exists.


Google News Archive
5 January 1904, The Evening Record (Windsor, Ontario), pg. 4, col. 4 ad:
If Your Drinking Interferes with Business; Give Up Business
(R. J. Wilkinson shoe ad—ed.)

5 January 1905, Northern Christian Advocate, pg. 4, col. 2:
Am I My Brother’s Keeper?
By Rev. George F. Shepherd.
“If drinking interferes with business, quit—business. West End Ales and Lager, if used moderately, will not interfere with you business.” This “ad” appeared in a Utica daily paper on December 15, ...

15 May 1907, The Morning Oregonian (Portland, OR), pg. 13, col. 2 classified ad:
COLLINS HOT MINERAL SPRINGS—THIS famous health and pleasure resort is now open and doing business under the same management, Captain C. T. Belcher still at the helm. He will be pleased to meet all the old patrons and as many new ones as come. Finest results in kidney and stomach troubles; unexcelled for rheumatism. If business interferes with pleasure or health, quit business and come to Collins Hot Springs.

8 September 1907, Washington (DC) Post, “Sold his ‘Cocktail Route’” (Chicago Inter Ocean), Magazine Section, pg. 5, col. 7:
He found, he says that he must give up one or the other and following the precept, “if drink interferes with your business, quit business,” he mapped out his route and stuck to it.

14 October 1907, Philadelphia (PA) Inquirer, “Resigns Church for Golf: Worcester (MA—ed.) Pastor Said Business Interfered With Pleasure, So He Dropped It,” pg. 1, col. 8:
“When business interferes with pleasure, drop the business,” said Rev. Dr. Scott, “that’s what I am going to do, and devote my time henceforth to golf.”

3 April 1910, Seattle (WA) Sunday Times, “The Embarrassment of Marrying a Rich Wife,” Magazine Section, pg. 7, col. 6:
“I’m going to follow the old maxim: ‘If pleasure interferes with business, cut out the pleasure.’ It’s the only way to make good in New York.”

Google Books
June 1913, The Painter and Decorator, pg. 357, col. 1: 
“When drinking interferes with business, cut out business.” That cynical bit of post-card advice has caused many a man to grin sheepishly and then do some hard and not altogether pleasant thinking.

Google News Archive
30 April 1914, Pittsburg (PA) Press, “The Business Man Who Is Too Busy” by Sophie Irene Loeb, pg. 18, col. 8:
While it is common to find men following the extreme condition, well expressed in the vernacular, “If pleasure interferes with business cut out business,” yet the other extreme is just as common and the real sufferer is the wife of this too ambitious product.

Google News Archive
21 February 1915, The Sunday Tribune (Providence, RI), “Washington Social Circles Observing Lent,” pg. 3, col. 1:
Unfortunately Senators under such circumstances were unable to follow the advice of some modern wag who said: “When pleasure interferes with business cut out business.”

Google Books
2 June 1915, Paint, Oil and Drug Review, pg. 7, col. 1:
That catchy sentence we used to find on post cards, “If drink interferes with business, give up business,” had more sense to it than you realized.

Google Books
Collier’s
Volume 90
1932
Pg. 42:
I’ve seen too many fine artists spoiled by success who, in turn, spoil themselves with drink, to subscribe to the cynical aphorism that if drink interferes with business, give it up — the business.

Google Books
The Innocents at Cedro:
A memoir of Thorstein Veblen and some others

By R. L. Duffus
New York, NY: Macmillan Co.
1944
Pg. 90:
One of William’s favorite maxims was, “If pleasure interferes with business give up business.”

Google News Archive
1 January 1947, Lewiston (ID) Morning Tribune, “Clarkston Rotarians Take New Year Vows At Luncheon Meet Yesterday,” pg. 6, col. 3:
Anonymous: I resolve that in the year 1947 if pleasure interferes with business, I’ll cut out the business.

Google Books
10,000 Jokes, Toasts & Stories
Edited by Lewis Copeland and Faye Copeland
Garden City., NY: Doubleday
1965
Pg. 665:
When pleasure interferes with business, give up business. — 20th century proverb.

Google Books
On the Town in New York:
The Landmark History of Eating, Drinking, and Entertainments from the American Revolution to the Food Revolution

By Michael Batterberry and Ariane Ruskin Batterberry
New York, NY: Routledge
1999
Pg. 198:
“If drinking interferes with business, cut out business!” was a favorite saying displayed over the bar.

Google Books
The Routledge Book of World Proverbs
Edited by Jon R. Stone
New York, NY: Routledge
2006
Pg. 331:
When pleasure interferes with business, give up business. (American)

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityWork/Businesses • (0) Comments • Friday, July 20, 2012 • Permalink