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By Mike Hudson

As everyone knows, I do dearly enjoy a beer now and again.

For the past two decades, my brew of choice has been Rolling Rock, a delightful extra-pale ale produced since 1939 in the "glass-lined tanks of old Latrobe."

That's Latrobe, Pa., a quaint community nestled in the mountains about 35 miles southeast of Pittsburgh whose world fame and biggest industry, up until now, has been derived from the presence of the Rolling Rock Brewery.

Alas, no more. On Friday, the motherless corporate jackals that run Anheuser-Busch purchased Rolling Rock for $82 million. The historic brewery will be shuttered, and production will move to, of all places, New Jersey.

No longer will this mildly alcoholic confection come "from the mountain springs to you." No, it will come instead from a state where residents shun their own tap water. The Masonic "33" painted in white on each green longneck and stamped on the inside of the distinctive cardboard cases will be a thing of the past, as will 200 jobs in Latrobe.

And let us pity poor Latrobe. This proud city of 9,000, the birthplace of Arnold Palmer and Mr. Rogers, will likely never recover from this shocking example of unbridled corporate greed.

This is the worst thing I've heard of since the Stroh's Brewing Co. of Detroit was devoured by Adolph Coors 20 or more years ago. I quit drinking Stroh's, the brew of my youth, lest any of my hard-earned beer money go to support the Coors family's screwy right-wing causes.

Likewise, if I wanted to drink Budweiser, I'd have already been drinking Budweiser. Ask anyone who's ever worked for Anheuser-Busch, and they'll tell you that Bud, Busch and Michelob all come out of the same vats, anyway, and now so will my beloved Rolling Rock.

In much the same way that Dodgers fans could no longer support the club after their dastardly move to Los Angeles, neither can I, in good conscience, continue to consume a barley-and-malt-based beverage knowing that my continued fealty would serve only to line the corporate coffers in St. Louis.

So somebody throw me a bone here. Is there not a relatively inexpensive, independently produced beer I can now embrace?

The recent and breathless announcement that financing is in place and work is about to begin on the United Office Building nearly had us choking on our Cheerios.

It was, I think, the 37th such announcement since Buffalo developer Carl Paladino gained control of the 20-story Art Deco landmark more than two years ago. Published reports say the state has already spent some $845,000 in acquiring the property on Paladino's behalf.

Anyway, I hope it's true. Unlike some other area media outlets, we haven't given Paladino much in the way of a free ride. Still, the United building is truly beautiful. Like an aging doyenne, its innate beauty doesn't wither. If it can be saved, it will remain our city's architectural jewel for at least another century.

Just how funny is Theresa Gagliardo's lawsuit against the city's NFC Development Corp.? Funny on so many levels, I can't even count that high.

First off, you have NFC Development head Ralph Aversa giving the local dailies the financials on Theresa's bankrupt Gagsters restaurant. Now, if Ralph were to spend his time handing out the records of every bankrupt saloon, restaurant, pizza parlor and taco stand NFC Development has loaned money to over the years, he wouldn't have time to do much else.

The Gagliardo family is friendly with city Councilman Babe Rotella, who just may be the next mayor, and Aversa's sudden open government seizure had much more to do with that than it did with any notion of what's right.

NFC Development was created in order to help small city businesses, which then -- theoretically -- would provide good jobs for residents and expand the tax base. Instead, for years it's been used as a vehicle for rewarding political cronies, who then open up the most high-risk businesses imaginable, default on their debts and leave taxpayers holding the bag.

Picking out Theresa was akin to handing out a speeding ticket at the Indy 500. On the other hand, taking money from a government entity effectively opens your books to the public. Here at the Reporter and at a number of other small but successful businesses I can think of, the thought of taking money from NFC Development, the county Industrial Development Agency or the state's USA Niagara Development is anathema.

If a bank or your friends won't lend you the money to go into business, or if you don't have the money yourself, you probably shouldn't go into business.

My guy on Niagara Street says it's even money that the city will settle the suit out of court, behind the closed doors of one of those creepy "executive sessions" the Council seems more and more enamored of. We'll see.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com May 23 2006