Rae’s Cafe, the Blue Springs restaurant that sought to defy a Jackson County order mask mandate, was closed Friday morning.
The closure came after owner Amanda Wohletz defied warnings, citations, the revocation of a food permit, and the Jackson County Health Department’s order to close the restaurant. Wohletz had continued to operate the restaurant until a judge ruled against her Thursday.
Jackson County Judge Jennifer Phillips granted the county’s request for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction stopping the Wohletz and the cafe from operating in violation of the county’s health order.
Phillips also ordered Rae’s Cafe, located in a strip center along Missouri 7 highway, to cease operations until it receives a valid food permit.
On Friday morning, about six people who said they supported Wohletz sat with the business owner outside on dining chairs and the tailgate of a pickup truck, drinking coffee and talking. Wohletz declined to comment and retreated inside shortly after a reporter arrived.
One supporter, who refused to give his name, said there were other food establishments in Blue Springs that refused to follow the county masking mandate.
In her order, Phillips said the county health order was lawfully created and enforced.
The court found the private club and medical exemptions as argued by the defendant do not provide a sufficient defense. Throughout the matter, Wohletz has maintained that she was operating within the bounds of the law.
The dispute centers around Jackson County’s current mask order that was reinstated in early August as the highly contagious coronavirus delta variant drove up cases and hospitalizations.
Shortly after Jackson County’s went into effect, the county received complaints that Rae’s Cafe, located in a strip center along Missouri 7 highway, was not complying with the mandate.
Inspectors were sent to check and issued a warning on Aug. 18. Tickets were issued on Aug. 27 and 28. The Jackson County Environmental Health revoked the cafe’s food permit and ordered it closed on Sept. 3.
However, Wohletz refused to obey the directive.
In court filings, she said employees told her that “wearing masks caused them anxiety and mental stress and that these medical conditions prevented them from being able to work in a mask.”
John Reeves, the attorney for the restaurant, could not be reached for comment.
In a written statement, Jackson County Executive Frank White Jr. said he was pleased with the judge’s decision.
“We respect and appreciate the Court’s ruling as well as their time and attention to this matter. While we are pleased with the outcome, it is unfortunate that we had to pursue legal action, but today, the Court affirmed that doing so was our only option to ensure our public health order is followed,” White said.
“We remain committed to taking the actions needed to protect the health and safety of our community during this difficult and challenging time. Together we will get through this pandemic and in the end, we will have a stronger, more compassionate and caring community,” he said.