First Published: 2017-03-29

Demolition of decades-old Beirut brewery begins
Brasserie du Levant, factory which brewed Lebanese beer Laziza for decades, being demolished to make way for luxury apartment complex.
Middle East Online

Laziza Brewery in eastern district of the Lebanese capital Beirut

BEIRUT - Demolition of one of the Middle East's oldest breweries began this week in the Lebanese capital to make way for a luxury apartment complex, a project that has irked activists.

Bulldozers worked atop the roof of the Brasserie du Levant on Wednesday, knocking down portions of the massive concrete building as neighbours looked on quietly.

Established in the 1930s, the factory brewed the Lebanese beer Laziza for decades before closing in the mid-1990s.

In its place will come "Mar Mikhael Village" -- dozens of apartments and townhouses, as well as retail spaces, named after the eastern district that has become a hybrid of loud bars and sleepy residential streets.

Residents of the neighbourhood have already begun complaining about the noise pollution and dusty construction site created by the project.

In designs posted on the architectural firm's website, the sleek development continues to feature the arched sign reading "Levant Brewery" that hung at the complex's entrance for decades.

But a video posted online by local activist Ghassan Salameh on Tuesday showed bulldozers knocking the sign back down onto the roof, producing a cloud of dust.

"It got really real when we started seeing the sign come down and the windows being dismantled," Salameh said.

He said he was working to organise residents into a campaign "with the sole purpose of asking a few questions."

Many older local residents believed the building was simply being renovated or would be turned into dorms for university students, he said.

"No one told them what roads will be closed, what kind of machinery will come into the neighbourhood, what kind of noise they'll have to endure for years," he said.

Activists have started a Facebook page to post updates about the demolition and organise opposition to it.

"The historic character of the neighbourhood... will be under threat," it warns.

"We demand the immediate halting of the demolition."

Activists and Beirut residents have long lamented the rampant pace of new development, at the expense of the city's existing architecture including elegant Lebanese villas.

Despite an economic downturn caused in part by the conflict in neighbouring Syria, a construction boom that began at the end of Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war shows little sign of slowing.

In 2010, the culture ministry said just 400 old mansions and buildings were left in the capital, from more than 1,200 inventoried in 1995.

 

Iraqi Kurds may postpone referendum in return for concessions

Assad says no Syria ties for countries backing rebels

Rouhani says top priority is protecting nuclear deal from US

Iraqi-Arab Gulf rapprochement makes headway

In Egypt, Syrian refugees recreate Syria

In African tour, Sisi seeks to rebuild ties, address security and water concerns

Syria’s transition scenarios for future rounds of talks

Dubai real estate market sets the pace for renewed growth in the GCC

German-Turkish intellectual held at Ankara’s request

Jordan’s municipal elections marred by deaths, riots

Russia doubts IS claim of stabbing attack in northern city

Turkey slams 'arrogant' German reaction to Erdogan poll call

Police confirm Finland 'terror attack'

Spain hunts suspects as IS claims attack

Aid project helps Syria refugees feel at home in Jordan

Lebanese army launches anti-IS offensive on Syria border

UN demands access to Yemen ports

Low-cost attacks a new reality for Europeans

Forces of Libya's Haftar say commander wanted by ICC in detention

Yemen rebels urged to free political commentator

Iranian footballer breaks silence over ban for playing Israelis

Erdogan meddles in German politics

IS fighters almost encircled in Syrian desert

For Israel, White House ties trump neo-Nazis and antisemitism

Israel freezes implementation of settlement law

Saudi Arabia installing cranes at Yemen ports

13 dead, 100 injured in two Spanish seaside city attacks

Iran reform leader ends hunger strike

Van ploughs through pedestrians in Barcelona terror attack

13 killed in Barcelona van attack

Iraq acknowledges abuses in Mosul campaign

Netanyahu under fire for response to US neo-Nazism

Israel to free high-profile suspects in money laundering probe

Spanish police shut down jet-ski migrant smugglers

Syrian actress, activist Fadwa Suleiman dies in Paris

Israeli court extends detention for Islamic cleric over ‘incitement’

UAE to provide $15 million a month to Gaza

Sudan's Bashir 'satisfied' with Nile dam project

US-backed rebels say American presence in Syria to last ‘decades’

Tunisian clerics oppose equal inheritance rights for women

Israel strikes almost 100 Hezbollah arms convoys in 5 years

UN hopes for eighth round of Syria talks before year’s end

LONG READ: How Syria continues to evade chemical weapons justice

Civilians killed in US-led raids on Raqa

Qatari pilgrims begin flooding into Saudi by land