Judge to issue ruling in Rae's Cafe court case by 5 p.m. Thursday

Rae's Cafe
Posted at 1:35 PM, Sep 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-22 19:11:23-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Jackson County judge will rule whether Rae's Cafe should remain closed by the end of the day on Thursday.

On Sept. 10, a separate Jackson County judge issued an order to close the restaurant after it repeatedly violated the county's mask mandate.

Jackson County first ordered the restaurant to close down on Sept. 3, after it received multiple complaints from people about the mask violations.

The following day owner Amanda Wohletz closed to the restaurant to the public and reopened as a private club.

In return, the county filed sought a temporary restraining order to shut the restaurant down. That order was originally granted on Sept. 10.

During Wednesday's court hearing, a judge heard testimony from Deborah Sees, director of Jackson County Environmental Health. Sees' department, separate from the health department, is responsible for enforcing the county's health order.

Sees spoke about the numerous complaints her department received about the business and the warning and tickets given.

Before revoking the business's food permit, Sees said she had a conversation with Wohletz who said the kitchen was too hot, masks were too inconvenient for her employees and she worried she would lose customers if she required them.

Sees said Rae's continued to defy the order so she went to the business Sept. 3 to revoke its food permit. She described the visit as hostile, chaotic and said she was being yelled at by multiple people.

Sees said Wohletz then said all of her employees were medically exempt.

John Reeves, attorney for Rae's, argued to the judge that the order doesn't allow the questioning of medical exemptions.

Reeves also argued that his client is exempt from the order since she operates as a private club and the order does not specify what defines a private club.

Marty Bax, attorney for Jackson County Health Department Director Bridgette Shaffer, argued about the importance of enforcing the health order.

"This case is important, others are watching, if the court were to say no need to follow this, the impact that could have down stream is tremendous," Bax said. "We have to protect the citizens of the county, that’s what the health department tried to do, it’s what Frank White tried to do, it’s what Caleb Clifford tried to do, it’s what the County is trying to do right now by extending their current TRO."

KSHB 41 News spoke with Marshanna Smith, the public information officer with Jackson County's Executive office after the hearing who said the ongoing feud has been about protecting the public and nothing else.

"This is not about politics, it has never been about politics for the county, this has always been about protecting public health of the residents of Jackson County and that’s why over the course of this pandemic we have instituted these health orders to ensure that we can keep our residents healthy and safe from the devastating effects of COVID-19," Smith said.

In Wednesday's hearing, a separate judge heard arguments from both the county and Rae's Cafe. The judge said she planned to issue a ruling by 5 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 23.