The Norfolk Planning Commission has recently taken a pivotal stance regarding the proposed establishment of the Armed Forces Brewing Co., casting doubt on the issuance of permits crucial for the brewery’s operations. The decision, following a series of deliberations, has sparked considerable debate within the community.
The brewery, which aimed to honor military service through its craft beers and provide a gathering place for veterans and locals alike, faced opposition primarily centered on zoning and land usage concerns.
The veteran-owned Armed Forces has been criticized by Norfolk residents and community leaders for its marketing videos and anti-LGBT+ comments from Armed Forces brand ambassador and former Navy SEAL Robert O’Neill.
Norfolk Del. Jackie Glass rescinded words of approval from the brewery announcement after learning about the comments and hearing from constituents at a town hall meeting.
Those speaking in favor of the brewery mentioned its plan to hire veterans, as well as other outreach efforts. Angela Kirby, director of operations for the Hampton Roads Food Truck Association, said it would be nice to have another Norfolk location to bring their businesses.
Members of the public that came out against the brewery noted comments made by O’Neill. They also voiced concerns about anti-immigration and pro-Jan. 6 social media posts authored by Armed Forces promoter Gretchen Smith.
Commissioner Scott Bateman, who voted yes, said he thought Armed Forces had a lot of community work to do.
The company is currently operating under a grandfathered conditional use permit for the property, which lasts through Nov. 21, according to a company spokesperson.
Anderson believed City Council would ultimately approve the use permits next month, calling the decision a land-use issue rather than a political one.
This Planning Commission decision, however, is not final and will be forwarded to the Norfolk City Council for further review and a final determination.