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by Chloe Baker
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Military-themed brewery controversy

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Military-Themed Brewery Faces Opposition in Navy Town Due to Ex-SEAL’s Controversial Remarks

A controversy has emerged in Virginia involving a proposed military-themed brewery, with a former U.S. Navy SEAL, Robert J. O’Neill, at its center. O’Neill, known for claiming to have shot Osama bin Laden, holds a small ownership in Armed Forces Brewing Company and was its brand ambassador. However, his involvement has sparked debate due to his alleged racist and homophobic comments.

O’Neill’s posts on social media, including criticism of a Navy sailor performing as a drag queen and a police report alleging his use of a racial slur, have intensified opposition to the brewery’s establishment in Norfolk, a city with strong military ties. The brewery, which aligns itself with conservative marketing strategies, has attempted to distance itself from these allegations of bigotry by reducing O’Neill’s role in public activities.

The Norfolk planning commission advised against granting permits for the brewery’s taproom and distribution center, located near the United States’ largest Navy base. This recommendation followed a wave of public comments, predominantly opposing the project, and the lack of support from the Park Place neighborhood association, representing a predominantly Black community.

Additionally, brewery opponents are scrutinizing another stakeholder, Gretchen Smith, an Air Force veteran. Smith’s social media statements, including her defense of Derek Chauvin and references to conspiracy theories, have further fueled the controversy.

The Norfolk City Council is set to decide on the brewery’s permits soon. The company has indicated it might pursue legal action if its application is denied. The brewery’s lawyer, Tim Anderson, claims the opposition is politically motivated, suggesting a bias against the owners’ political views.

The situation somewhat mirrors the backlash faced by Bud Light and Anheuser-Busch for their support of transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney, which led to significant sales decline amid conservative criticism.

Critics argue that Armed Forces Brewing does not represent the diversity of the U.S. military or the liberal-leaning community of Norfolk. Robert Bracknell, an attorney and former Marine, emphasizes that the opposition is rooted in a stance against intolerance and hatred, not the military.

The brewery’s response to these allegations has been to emphasize its commitment to diversity and the military community. CEO Alan Beal has highlighted that O’Neill and Smith are not involved in day-to-day operations and that the company’s aim is to support veterans and their causes.

Despite these assurances, local groups like Hampton Roads Pride remain cautious, seeking a more inclusive approach from the brewery but observing a lack of genuine engagement thus far. The community continues to express concerns while attempting to establish a dialogue with Armed Forces Brewing Company.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Military-themed brewery controversy

What is the controversy surrounding the Armed Forces Brewing Company?

The Armed Forces Brewing Company, a proposed military-themed brewery in Norfolk, Virginia, faces opposition due to the involvement of Robert J. O’Neill, a former U.S. Navy SEAL. O’Neill, who claims to have shot Osama bin Laden, has been linked to alleged racist and homophobic remarks, sparking debate over the brewery’s establishment in a city with strong military connections.

Who is Robert J. O’Neill and why is he central to the brewery controversy?

Robert J. O’Neill is a former U.S. Navy SEAL and a small owner of the Armed Forces Brewing Company. He is at the center of the controversy due to his social media comments and a police report alleging he used a racial slur. These incidents have fueled opposition to the brewery’s opening in Norfolk.

What are the specific allegations against O’Neill and the brewery?

Allegations against O’Neill include his social media criticism of a Navy sailor performing as a drag queen and a police report accusing him of using a racial slur. Additionally, the brewery’s association with conservative marketing and other stakeholders’ controversial social media posts have also drawn criticism.

How has the Norfolk community responded to the proposed brewery?

The Norfolk community, including the planning commission and the Park Place neighborhood association, has largely opposed the brewery. The planning commission recommended denying permits for the brewery, and public comments filed for the proposal were predominantly against it. The opposition cites concerns over the brewery not reflecting the diversity of the U.S. military or the liberal-leaning community.

What could be the potential outcome for the Armed Forces Brewing Company?

The future of the Armed Forces Brewing Company depends on the Norfolk City Council’s decision on its permits. The company has warned it might sue if its application is rejected. The controversy has sparked a broader discussion about tolerance, diversity, and political biases in business operations.

More about Military-themed brewery controversy

  • Armed Forces Brewing Company Controversy
  • Robert J. O’Neill and Brewery Dispute
  • Norfolk Planning Commission’s Stance
  • Public Reaction to Norfolk Brewery Proposal
  • Legal Implications for Brewery’s Permit Denial
  • Community Opposition to Military-Themed Brewery

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5 comments

:TruthSeeker December 11, 2023 - 3:24 am

So much for freedom of speech huh? everyone’s getting offended over everything, what happened to just enjoying a cold one without politics.

Reply
:Jake Miller December 11, 2023 - 3:24 am

wow, didn’t expect to see such a stir over a brewery, politics sure gets into everything these days…

Reply
:SarahB December 11, 2023 - 5:16 am

I think its important to look at the bigger picture here, the brewery is not just about beer it’s about the values it represents, or doesn’t

Reply
:NavyVet91 December 11, 2023 - 7:14 am

As a navy vet, this is disheartening to see, we’re supposed to be united not divided by a beer company, right?

Reply
:LocalResident December 11, 2023 - 10:53 am

I live in norfolk and the tension is real, people here care deeply about these issues, and it’s not just about a drink

Reply

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