A Muslim Looking at Anheuser Busch and Its Impact on St. Louis

Tomorrow I am driving from the East Coast to St. Louis and as I have been following the news in St. Louis there are two huge stories. One story is the Midwestern flooding and people in St. Louis are worried about a reoccurrence of the Great Flood of 1993 which took so much in terms of property damage, economic losses and of course human lives.

 

While a flood could be damaging to the low areas of St. Louis and the surrounding suburbs (particularly on the Illinois side) there is another story that has become much larger than the floods. St. Louis is famous for three things; beer, baseball and the Gateway Arch (and one may argue its reputation for being a dangerous city and the 1904 Worlds Fair of St. Louis and Olympic Games).

 

St. Louis is famous for beer because America’s largest brewer and what some believe is the largest brewery in the world is located in Da Lou. Of course I am referring to Anheuser-Busch brewery which makes all Budweiser, Busch, Michelob and other products I do not even know the names to.  

 

The impact that AB has on the community is enormous. It pays tens of millions in taxes to a struggling city every year. It donates  further millions to local charities on a yearly basis. Whenever the community water supply has had problems AB has quickly donated water to those who needed it, and it operates Grants Farm which is open and free to the public. The baseball stadium that is home to the Cardinals is Busch Stadium and until 15 years or so back AB owned the Cardinals and in the 1970’s and 80’s it was a famous site to see August Busch, the then owner of AB, drive his Clydesdales in a carriage on to the outfield.

 

St. Louis, being the blue-collar city it is, was hit hard after the general trend of closing American manufacturing sites down so that they can be moved to places with no environmental or labor standards. There are a handful of places where people without a college degree dream of getting hired; General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, Boeing, the government and more than any of them AB. To put this into perspective GM moved way out to the St. Charles County suburbs years ago and laid off a lot of people, the Ford factory is scheduled for closure, Chrysler has laid off a lot of people and workers there are facing major cuts, Boeing in St. Louis was McDonnell Douglas at one time and a world headquarter and in my lifetime tens of thousands have lost their jobs their devastating the North St. Louis County economy. AB has been the only place to hire consistently and pay their workers well till this day.  

 

I am saying all of this because a Belgium brewer is making a multi-billion dollar offer to buy the brewer. If this happens it would be devastating to the local economy and another example of the soulless and rootless nature of globalization. Someone may be able to regurgitate to me some theory they were taught in college and blindly accepted but there is no one who can tell me these kinds of things are good for the community.

 

No matter what they say a Belgian firm will not be the kind of good corporate citizen that AB has been. They simply do not have the kind of foundation and family ties to the city that AB and its executives have and hell I doubt anyone on the board knows the rules to baseball. That is if they stay in St. Louis and do not close down the brewery and corporate offices and move the North American headquarters to the coasts.

 

However, more than anything I have stated, the closure of AB would be damaging to the psyche of the city, You can no longer hear commercials on TV all day that end with “Anheuser-Busch St. Louis, MO” or go on a European or Latin American vacation and see a bottle or can with the name St. Louis at the bottom. It is equivalent to Coca-Cola leaving Atlanta, Coors leaving Denver, or the Pentagon leaving Northern Virginia. It would be one more blow to a once great city.

 

As a Muslim how do I look at this? We all know that beer is haram, that consumption of alcohol causes a great evil within society from violence to drunk driving and that it would be a good thing if no one ever drank or made beer. But people do, and it is a huge business, and St. Louis has always played a prominent role in the industry. If AB money leaves St. Louis there will be nothing to replace it and the drinking will go on just in a much broker city with a bad self-image.

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13 thoughts on “A Muslim Looking at Anheuser Busch and Its Impact on St. Louis

  1. I hate to say it man, but it was inevitable. That is just how the global economy works, obviously.

    I’m sure some Brits were upset at their automotive marques being gobbled up by a former colony of theirs (Land Rover and Jaguar to Tata Motors), but as time goes by, they’ll get over it and move on.

  2. That obnoxiously HUGE AB logo on the side of the brewery is one of the only things I remember about St. Louis. It was almost as big as the Arch!!! We took lots of pictures of both.

  3. “You can find me in St. Louie. Where they gun play ring all day. some got jobs and some sell yeah. others just smoke and ….. all day”

  4. It’s a shame that a beer company has much higher standard of integrity than some so-called Islamic businesses. Another example of how we need to step up in the game.

  5. the buyout is big news here and many people are worried that it will be leaving the city. the Belgian buyers have said that they wouldn’t move the headquarters, but who knows if this is true. back when the news first broke, many of the local shows like Donnybrook, were speaking about it and not in the most positive terms.
    considering the amount of money being offered ($65 a share) i wouldn’t be surprised it AB took it, though I hope they won’t. even though they don’t have as many employees, i think AB leaving would hurt more than McDonnell Douglas.

  6. I think that the damage that alcohol has wrought on society at large far outweighs anything positive that Anheuser-Busch or any other brewery may have done. I understand that breweries provide numerous people with jobs and that Anheuser-Bush is a huge part of St. Louis’ identity, but I think that many of the problems that blue-collar cities like St. Louis face (such as crime, homelessness, rape, children born out of wedlock, etc.) are exacerbated or even directly caused by alcohol to begin with.

    On a related note, I always found it strange that the tobacco companies are seen as synonymous with evil, yet breweries aren’t subject to nearly the same level of government scrutiny or public vilification. Smoking can destroy someone’s physical health, but alcohol can destroy every aspect of their life. No one shed a tear as Altria (Phillip Morris’ parent company) slashed its U.S. manufacturing base in half over the last 20 years; I don’t see why the potential loss of a major U.S. brewery should generate such sympathy.

  7. while the short term economic impact is an obvious consequence, long term it would force the citizens to elect officials with new ideas instead of using AB as a crutch to hold up an already poor, broken and corrupt society, reflective of the governing body they have chose to represent them. also, i feel no pity for big business being swallowed up by bigger business. the good that AB does in the community is a bandaid to cover up the alcohol related ills they create in society.

  8. As-Salaamu ‘alaikum,

    It’s not only Range Rover which has been taken over by a foreign company; all, or nearly all, of our motor manufacturing capabilities are in foreign hands now. Most of them have disappeared, although in some cases the old names are placed on the new foreign material (e.g. ERF on MAN trucks). The probable reason is that the companies stagnated in the 1970s because of labour problems, being more interested in providing feather-bedded jobs than in keeping up with what the Germans or French were producing (although admittedly Leyland trucks still sold plentifully in the UK), but all Thatcher could think to do was sell it off and/or shut it down.

    As for Anheuser-Busch, well, it’s the story of corporate takeovers the world over. This country has seen quite a few breweries shut down over the years, including recently the Ram brewery in Wandsworth near where I live, because of takeovers by the likes of Greene King who want to consolidate everything in one big factory and sell land off to property developers. Whether the Belgian company’s takeover will cause the shutdown of the St Louis site depends on whether it is one of several breweries the company owns (as was the case with the Wandsworth brewery), whether they could sell it to a property developer (in which case they will have to open another brewery), whether they intend to make some of the brands for European consumption in Europe, if they don’t already (in which case there may well be job losses although not so many if they can start making some of their own beers in St Louis). However, if they do take over, probably the first job losses will be in the offices rather than in the actual brewing or manufacturing departments.

  9. This is my hometown, and Insha’allah I pray that this purchase doesn’t effect the economic status of families and the city itself.

  10. As a South Asian, Tata’s takeover of Range Rover and Jaguar made me smile. It’s gratifying to see an Indian company take over two prominent symbols of luxury of the very country that occupied India for three hundred years.

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