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Pottsville News

A Battle is Brewing Over Free Beer Event in Pottsville on Saturday

The Black Rock Brewing Co. controversy comes to a head.

Bobby Weaver, the owner of Black Rock Brewing Company in Pottsville, plans to host a Free Beer event on Saturday, March 16th, despite threats from city officials to shut it down.

The embattled owner of a downtown Pottsville business plans to go ahead with a Free Beer event he’s planned for this Saturday on the grounds surrounding his condemned building.

Bobby Weaver, the owner of Black Rock Brewing Co., at 325 S. Centre St. in Pottsville, says he intends for the beer to literally flow freely to anyone who attends, with some exceptions: no one under 21, no Pottsville Mayor, and no Pottsville City Council members.

Pottsville officials seem intent on stopping this event and have made their feelings public on the matter. And it’s not because Weaver is denying them free beer.

Weaver’s business has been closed since last May, when a kitchen fire forced the City government to condemn the property, in what typically is a temporary reaction. But after the fire, the City found a total of 67 code violations and told the owner he couldn’t reopen the business until they were remedied.

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Since then, Weaver’s attempts to get Black Rock reopened have been the subject of much controversy and to this day, the business remains closed. He says the code violations have been addressed but the city won’t take down the condemned notice on Black Rock’s front door.

Weaver believes some city officials have a vendetta against him, especially after he launched a campaign for a City Council seat in 2023, which he didn’t win. 

He decided he’d host a Free Beer giveaway on Saturday, March 16, the same day as Pottsville’s St. Patrick’s Day parade.

The event he’s planning will be held entirely outside the condemned building, from 5-9 p.m. Weaver believes he’s perfectly within his rights to have this event. 

Pottsville officials strongly disagree and are threatening to shut it down should Weaver continue with his plans on Saturday.

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Earlier this week, Weaver received a letter from Pottsville Solicitor Tim Pellish. The letter threatens Weaver if he decides to go on with the Free Beer event.

Pellish cites the 2015 International Property Maintenance Code, which Pottsville says it follows. The city’s attorney says when a property is condemned, it includes the land surrounding the condemned building, too. 

“As such, I must inform you that if, in fact, you open for this purpose, the City will shut it down and appropriate citations issued,” Pellish’s letter reads. 

He also claims that Weaver needs to obtain a license simply to have a free beer giveaway, regardless of the condemnation of his building.

In response to the City’s letter, Weaver’s attorney, Stephen Carpenito responded in writing with the following: 

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Carpenito writes to Pellish believing that the city’s interpretation of that IPMC is “misplaced and incorrect” and that the City only condemned the building, not the grounds surrounding it. Therefore, Weaver should be well within his rights to host the Free Beer event.

“My client can utilize the Premises surrounding the Structure. Had the City desired to condemn the Premises the Notice of Condemnation should have included the Premises as required by the IPMC. Further, I do not see how the City possibly condemn a grass and cement yard as there are no safety issues in those areas,” Carpenito writes. 

Free Beer Controversy Comes to a Head

On Thursday, things reached the proverbial boiling point with the Free Beer event plans. 

Knowing that Weaver is intent on hosting the event on Saturday, which he has made very public through Black Rock’s Facebook page, Pottsville Mayor Dave Clews issued a press release. 

“With the safety of our citizens and visitors in mind, the Free Beer Event at BlackRock is not possible. For the sake of public safety, fairness to other business who follow the rules we must stop this event from taking place. Myself, City Council, Fire Chief, Police Chief, Code Office, and City Solicitor believe that this is the proper decision and are asking for your understanding and support,” Clews writes. 

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In his release, Clews also contends that all businesses in Pottsville must meet code regulations and that Weaver hasn’t with Black Rock. 

“The owner of Black Rock must comply with the same codes that every other business must meet. After the fire, Black Rock was given several opportunities to reopen by correcting specific issues. That path was not taken. The new approach was not to reopen, it included additional changes that required plans. Those new plans and drawings have been reviewed on several occasions by both the City and a Review Board. Both have agreed that Black Rock has not met code standards,” Clews adds. 

In a conversation with Weaver on Thursday afternoon at Black Rock, he tells The Canary that he wished Clews would be more involved in the situation. Weaver says it’s been nearly a year since anyone from the City government has even been to his business location.

“I wish the Mayor would get more involved with this issue,” Weaver says. “The stuff he said isn’t true. I have tried to get a hold of him more than a dozen times and he’s been ignoring calls. If he wants to come out here and look at our property himself, he can.”

Regardless of the war of words, Weaver says he’s intending to hold the Free Beer event despite the threats.

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As things relate to his business reopening in the future, he’s pinning his hopes on a victory in Schuylkill County Court of Common Pleas.

Weaver believes he’s done everything necessary to allow Black Rock to reopen. The City says otherwise. He’s been denied by City officials, including most recently by the Pottsville Uniform Construction Code Appeals Board. He believes he’s in the right and it’s “cut and dry” and that a County judge will see it that way.

“They’re going to realize that they’ve been kind of going down the wrong path for a long time on this,” Weaver says of City officials.

And he thinks the City coming after his Free Beer event is just wrong.

“It would have been smart for them to not worry about the outside event. If they want to keep us closed on the inside until we make it through the Court of Common Pleas, sure, but outside, when we had zero violations outside and we had over a dozen events before we opened up inside,” Weaver says.

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