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Fire-breathing bartenders arrested, face 45 years

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Two fire-breathing bartenders face up to 45 years in prison each for performing flaming bar tricks.

Jimmy's Old Town Tavern owner Jimmy Cirrito said his bartenders have been entertaining his customers — by juggling bottles of alcohol and spitting out streams of flames using matchbooks and lighters — for more than a decade and no one's complained. But shortly after midnight on July 24, two of his longtime employees were hauled out of the Herndon bar in handcuffs and charged with three felonies each plus other misdemeanors

“They were being treated as if they were terrorists, charged as if they intentionally tried to burn down the tavern,” Cirrito said.

Fairfax County fire investigators charged Tegee Rogers, 33, of Herndon, and Justin Fedorchak, 39, of Manassas, with manufacturing an explosive device, setting a fire capable of spreading, and burning or destroying a meeting house. They also were charged with several state fire code misdemeanors.

Both men have worked at the tavern nearly since it opened. They both recently became fathers and are very anxious about facing serious criminal charges, Cirrito said.

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Jimmy's Old Town Tavern bartenders have performed the fire-breathing act for 13 years, at first doing the tricks on special occasions like birthdays or to honor a fallen fireman, police officer or soldier, Cirrito said. By 1999, the fire-breathing bartenders had become a Friday midnight tradition, he said. The bar uses the fire-breathing bartenders on its advertisements.

Cirrito said an investigator told him that the marshals received a letter in the mail with a photo taken of a previous performance at the bar.

Cirrito said he has never received a warning from the fire marshals, and he would have stopped if marshals had given him a warning.

“But I don't think we've done anything wrong,” he said. “There's a lot of fire in restaurants. I've been served flaming desserts, I've roasted marshmallows on tables, I've seen 75 candles and sparklers on cakes, and I've seen bartenders perform the tricks coast-to-coast and no one's been arrested.”

Update: 8/25: Fairfax County prosecutors drop felony charges against bartenders; Firebreathing team recieves hundreds of letters of support from around the world. 

smccabe@washingtonexaminer.com



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