NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — In a split vote, the Norfolk Planning Commission has recommended denial of conditional use permits for Armed Forces Brewing Company’s controversial brewery in the city.
The Planning Commission voted 4-2 not to recommend the conditional use permits for the business. Armed Forces Brewing is seeking conditional use permits for the production of craft beverages, live entertainment and for a banquet hall. City planning staff has recommended approval on condition that outdoor entertainment ends by 10 p.m.
At the Thursday meeting, some welcomed the idea of Armed Forces Brewing Company coming to Norfolk.
“I believe in them. I believe in what they are doing. More importantly, they are hiring — 70% of their employees will be veterans,” one investor told the commissioners.
Another speaker added: “I can’t think of anything more honorable than this company coming into this area. They are veteran-oriented … I highly recommend it as a veteran.”
Others were not thrilled by some of the anti-LQBTQ+ rhetoric and other divisive messaging from the brewery’s leadership.
“This brewery clearly doesn’t fit in with the values of our city,” one speaker said.
Another added: “We have been challenged and dismayed to see Armed Forces Brewing coming into Norfolk and don’t feel they are a business that will support our community.”
Ultimately, the city planning commission recommended city council deny the permits.
“We got a little tied up in hyper politics right here at this level,” said Tim Anderson, who represents the brewery.
He said there was misinformation that caused some of the community to hate the business.
“I think you have public comments by one of the minority owners that riled up this community,” Anderson said. “Unfortunately, it’s based upon pre-determined beliefs that because of comments because of one of the owners, it’s what the company stands for and that’s not the case.”
Anderson said the brewery will be welcoming and run like its predecessors, O’Connor Brewing Company.
“When you come into the brewery, it’ll be an open, welcome environment like O’Connor,” he said.
He feels city council will have a different decision.
“I think city council will still go our way,” Anderson said. “Fundamentally, the legal question is, can we use the property to make beer?”
City Council will decide in a December meeting whether to approve the conditional use permits for the brewery.
In a statement, Armed Forces Brewing Company CEO Alan Beal told 10 On Your Side:
“It is unfortunate that local Veterans and their family members may temporarily lose jobs as this holiday season begins and that Norfolk veteran-owned companies we work with may temporarily lose our business because four political appointees on the Planning Commission ignored the recommendations of the City of Norfolk Planning Commission’s staff to approve our permits. Clearly, there was no legal basis for this decision. We are confident that Norfolk City Council will grant the permits as the law requires, and we will make certain that they are aware of the numerous falsehoods and defamatory statements that were spoken at the Planning Commission hearing. Instead of following the law and their staff’s recommendation, the four committee members who voted to recommend denial of the permits catered to a vocal minority who believe their personal social agenda places them above the law, and above the
rights of the Hampton Roads military and veteran community that have overwhelmingly supported us from the day we invested in this community,” Beal added. “While we believe in the right of every American to speak their mind, we also know the First Amendment does not protect defamatory speech, and those who defamed Armed Forces Brewing Company publicly at this hearing and leading up to it will learn that there are legal repercussions to publicly lying and affecting our 9,300 shareholders. We will get our permits, and we will open and serve the
patriotic Americans who support us.”