Jackson County shuts down Rae's Cafe over repeated mask violations

Raes Cafe closure.jpg
Posted at 12:28 PM, Sep 03, 2021

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The owner of Rae’s Cafe in Blue Springs is refusing to comply with a Jackson County order to close the restaurant after repeated violations of the county’s COVID-19 orders.

A sign posted on the restaurant's door Friday stated that Jackson County environmental health officials had closed the establishment.

The sign cited "not following the Jackson County Health Order and causing a significant threat to the health and safety of patrons."

"I'm not doing it," Amanda Wohletz said, owner.

Wohletz continued seating customers anyway, even after the county officer left.

A public health specialist signed the order, but on the space give for a restaurant representative to sign, it read, "refused to sign."

KSHB 41 News obtained a letter from the county to the restaurant revoking the Food Establishment permit for Rae's Cafe.

It called the operation of the cafe an "imminent health hazard" for its refusal to enforce the mask mandate and not properly disinfecting the establishment.

The letter states operations must cease by "today, Sept. 3."

A Jackson County spokesperson said they've received multiple complaints over the past two weeks about Rae's Cafe.

"I have not honored the mask mandate this round. I did the entire last round," Wohletz said. "She came in Friday issued me a warning, a ticket and a court date. Same thing Monday, another ticket and a court date."

Her court date is on Oct. 6 for the two tickets.

The county said three more complaints came in Friday, prompting them to shut the restaurant down.

Wohletz said that her staff and everyone who comes into her restaurant are medically exempt, so they don't have to wear masks. She isn't asking her customers to wear masks when they come in and isn't requiring a reason for not wearing one.

"I don't try to go to a lot of places, so the places I do go that I feel safe and comfortable with, that's where I do go," Craig Picard, a loyal customer, said.

Wohletz said she believes the mask mandate is unfair to the restaurant industry because it's hard to cook and work in a mask.

"It didn't work the first time," Wohletz said. "It hasn't worked in two years. So why are you going to keep making restaurants and bars suffer who have already suffered for so long?"

Wohletz said she's not backing down, despite the sign on her door, and will open Saturday morning for breakfast.

The letter given to the cafe states that a health officer may suspend or revoke permits of establishments that fail to comply with health codes, that owners can reapply for a permit when violations are corrected and that the establishment can not be reinspected for compliance within 48 hours of the revocation.

“Despite our multiple attempts to work with the business to comply, the owner knowingly and willingly continued to violate the health order,” Troy Schulte, Jackson County Administrator, said. “It is clear by the number of complaints we received that people in our community are concerned about the spread of the virus and are holding others accountable to prevent further pain, sickness and death in our community."

The county's enforcement is complaint-based. Health officials who visit a business after receiving complaints must see the violation in order to issue a warning or ticket.

They'll give out one warning before they start giving out tickets.

According to the county, since the public health order requiring masks took effect on August 9, there have been:

  • More than 500 complaints.
  • 86 warnings.
  • 22 tickets.

The county said so far that permits have been revoked at three businesses, including Rae's Cafe, for noncompliance with a health order over the course of the pandemic.