who was at the bar Champps with a group of his work colleagues,
complied. After failing a breath test designed to test his sobriety,
Heidig was loaded into a van and taken to jail on charges of public
"I was in a public place drinking," Heidig said on ABCNEWS'
Good Morning America. "I was not driving, I didn't even have
Heidig, who hired an attorney to contest the charges, said he
left his car, wallet and keys two miles away at his office, and he
had made arrangements to stay overnight at a friend's place in
Heidig insists that he was not acting obnoxious in the bar when
he was pulled outside. While reciting the alphabet he stumbled on
the letter "Q" and was given a breathalyzer test.
Heidig was just one of the restaurant and bar patrons were swept
up last month in a joint operation of the Fairfax County police and
the Virginia Department of Alcohol Beverage Control — an operation
authorities say they may repeat. The agencies are trying to crack
down on drunken driving by picking out drunks before anyone gets
behind the wheel.
Nine People Arrested
Over the recent holidays, undercover cops went into bars in
Reston and Herndon, Va., to see if bartenders were overserving
customers. Police ended up raiding three bars and arresting nine
patrons who failed sobriety tests. Patrons who failed were charged
with public intoxication, a misdemeanor.
"If the law says that if you are in a public location and
intoxicated, you are subject to arrest," said Lt. Tor Bennett of the
Reston District of the Fairfax County Police Department.
He said that in practice, people who are a little intoxicated but
minding their own business are probably not going to be bothered by
The person "must be drawing attention to themselves," said
Bennett, who supervised the operation.
"What drew their attention to Mike [Heidig] in this particular
evening was not a fight or disruption out in the parking lot,"
Bennett said. "Mike happened to be wearing a Santa Claus suit and
was seen with a karoke machine at the bar and that's how he got
Under Virginia law, a restaurant or bar is considered a public
space, and public intoxication is a low-level misdemeanor that
carries a fine of up to $250 and can also be punishable by a night
Restaurateurs Cry Foul
Civil libertarians are saying the police have gone too far, and
restaurant and bar owners fear that the raids are scaring away their
customers who are drinking responsibly.
Jimmy Cirrito, owner of Jimmy's Old Tavern in Herndon, one of the
bars that was raided, says he takes excessive drinking very
seriously. Two people leaving his bar were arrested for being drunk
on the way to their cars.
"The last thing I want to see is any of my customers get hurt,"
he said. For that reason, he said, it's his policy to have
bartenders call a cab and cut off drinks to anyone they think is
But Cirrito is worried that the police crackdowns will harm his
business. When police came to his bar in mid-December, he said, it
looked like a full-scale invasion, with seven squad cars pulling up
and 12 officers walking in single-file.
Bennett called the operation "low-key," but Cirrito described it
"I have never seen this before," Cirrito said. "I've seen the
Alcohol Beverage Control [teams] come in and look for intoxicated
people that are possibly causing a disturbance, and they've either
warned myself or the manager at the restaurant, but I've never seen
12 uniformed officers walk in and begin taking people out on the
sidewalk and giving them sobriety tests."