VIRGINIA BEACH — Playing television and music inside of Young Veterans Brewing Company are prohibited and non-negotiable, according to a letter written to Rep. Scott Taylor and penned by a U.S. Navy admiral.
Taylor, a retired U.S. Navy SEAL and former member of the Virginia House of Delegates for the 85th district, first contacted the Navy in regards to the Virginia Beach brewery in November after Southside Daily revealed troubles the business has been facing due to a decades-old easement purchased by the United States that limits activities permitted on 219 acres of land surrounding Naval Air Station Oceana.
For Young Veterans Brewing Company, located at 2505 Horse Pasture Road, those limitations come in the form of no television, music, board games, cornhole or food trucks at the business, as well as rules about the size of their taproom.
The easement was purchased in June 1983 for $900,000 and intends to prevent encroachment around the base and to control the number of people near the base who might be hurt if a jet crashed.
The easement classifies Young Veterans as a manufacturer, prohibiting recreational and amusement facilities on the property, “including but not limited to movie houses, theaters, athletic clubs,” court documents state.
But Taylor says the easement language is antiquated, ambiguous and not reflective of the way a modern business works.
“(The easement) doesn’t lend itself to modern-day business,” Taylor said. “The language itself is the big problem because it’s ambiguous.”
Taylor said the ambiguity isn’t only problematic when business owners try to interpret it — it can also be an issue when the business owners and people enforcing the rules don’t get along.
“If there are personality conflicts, it could lead to over-enforcement or under-enforcement,” he said. “The language is at a higher level than the enforcers. It’s up in Washington with ‘Big Navy’ and Congress.”
Taylor has had a phone call and face-to-face meeting with Navy officials in which he hoped to “thread the needle” and find a win-win solution that would allow Young Veterans owners, Tom Wilder and Neil McCanon, who have invested more than $1.5 million into the business, flexibility to compete with area breweries while protecting Oceana’s air space.
In those meetings, Taylor specifically asked the Navy to reconsider the rules against televisions and music.
In a Feb. 9 follow-up letter, U.S. Navy Rear Admiral J.C. Scorby said nothing will change.
“At your request, I directed Navy staff to reexamine whether television and music played for the benefit of patrons is consistent with the easement restrictions,” Scorby wrote. “After these discussions, the conclusion remains that television and music played for the benefit of patrons is a recreational activity that is prohibited under the easement restrictions.”
Now, Taylor said he’s working to figure out the bigger issue, which he believes is the vagueness of the easement language. He said that the strict enforcement of it at Young Veterans is just a symptom of the problem.
One solution might be to take the easement language to Congress and work out a deal that makes it clearer. That could come at a price for localities, Taylor said, which may include states and cities paying to protect Navy bases from encroachment.
“If we change the language it could have repercussions across the nation,” Taylor said. “Virginia Beach and Chesapeake have spent a lot of money over the years to reduce encroachment and put zoning in line with the needs of the Navy.”
The Navy paid for its right to limit activities on properties included in the easement. The language might not have to be changed — but maybe it can be, Taylor said.
He views his position as an advocate for local businesses, but also as a protector of Naval bases.
“I’m going to do what I can in my position to help everyone,” he said. “I don’t see it happening super fast. That’s just the way the government works.”
The U.S. Navy did not respond to a request for an interview by Southside Daily. Young Veterans Brewing Company refrained from commenting on the Navy’s letter.
Mayfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.