BLUE SPRINGS, MO (KCTV) -- A day after a local restaurant owner went on TV to explain why she was going against her county's mask mandate in places of public accommodation, the county's environmental health department ordered the business to shut down.
The Jackson County Department of Environmental Health issued a suspension/revocation of permits notice to Rae's Cafe on Friday morning. A sign on the business' front door notes that the restaurant has been closed for "not following the Jackson County health order and causing a significant threat to the health and safety of the patrons."
The restaurant, located off 7 Highway in Blue Springs, Missouri -- 19 miles east of downtown Kansas City -- had previously posted a message to patrons on a chalkboard, starting in August, that said, "Rae's Cafe is NOT honoring the mask requirement and does NOT require staff to either. if you have a problem with our decision, stay home."
Amanda Wohletz, the owner of the restaurant, explained that it was difficult for her and her staff to work in the kitchen while wearing a face covering.
"You can't work in it," she said. "The whole restaurant industry is short staffed and this isn't helping."
The Jackson County Department of Environmental Health issued multiple warnings and citations. Marshanna Smith, a county spokesperson, said 10 complaints had been filed about Rae's.
In an email to KCTV5, she wrote:
"As we have done before, Jackson County’s enforcement of the health order requiring masks is complaint-based, meaning concerned community residents contact us about non-compliance. The County’s environmental health division visits places as they receive complaints and have to actually see the violation to issue a warning or ticket. We give one warning and provide education on corrective action before a ticket of non-compliance is issued. In this case, multiple complaints have been received from the community, resulting in a warning and two tickets. If another complaint is received and that complaint is verified by staff, the café’s food establishment permit will be revoked for an imminent health hazard, despite our multiple attempts to work with the business to comply with the health order.
The County’s health order is in place, and was extended by a majority of the County Legislature on Monday, to protect the health and safety of all residents, especially those who are immunocompromised and children under 12 who cannot yet get vaccinated. Complying with the health order will allow our community to slow the spread of the virus and the highly-contagious delta variant, keep businesses open, our kids in school and our hospitals from being overwhelmed."
Smith also said that the county had revoked just two restaurant permits for mask noncompliance throughout the entire pandemic.
On Thursday, Rae's Cafe was packed with patrons who came to support Wohletz.
Laura Sharp, who found out about the situation through social media, said the county was overstepping.
"We're here to support the restaurant against the county's tyranny," she said.
Rep. Jeff Coleman (R-Grain Valley) was also in the crowd of supporters.
"I just think it's time to end this nonsense," Coleman said. "I think it's important not to shut down businesses."
Wohletz said she appreciated the support and that she does not plan on backing down.
"This is my livelihood," she said. "This is my staff's livelihood. It should be my choice for my restaurant."
Below are the Jackson County Health Department's notice and closure notice: