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Rae’s Cafe moving to Independence after defying Jackson County’s mask order

Rae's Cafe, which was shuttered in Blue Springs by the Jackson County Department of Health for allowing employees and patrons to enter without masks is planning to re-open in Independence where there is no mask requirement.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Rae's Cafe in Blue Springs, which was shuttered by the Jackson County Department of Health for allowing employees and patrons to enter without masks, is planning to reopen in Independence, which has no mask requirement.

The Blue Springs restaurant closed after violating Jackson County's mask mandate but could reopen in Independence next month.

The Blue Springs restaurant that was forced to close after defying Jackson County health orders plans to reopen in Independence, which does not have a mask mandate.

A Jackson County judge last month granted the county’s request for an injunction against Rae’s Café after it repeatedly allowed unmasked customers and employees inside. The same judge also rejected the restaurant's countersuit alleging the mask order is illegal.

Owner Amanda Wohletz said at a news conference Wednesday that she was ready for a fresh start at the new location in Independence.

“I'm glad to have the opportunity to get back open. Myself, my staff, everyone is excited for that opportunity just to go back to normal life,” Wohletz said. “I hope to get all our regular customers back. That's what we're opening for.”

Wohletz thanked Independence City councilmembers Mike Huff, Michael Steinmeyer and Brice Stewart for their roles in helping the restaurant relocate.

Huff said he reached out to Wohletz and sought to convince her to relocate to Independence, which is not bound by Jackson County’s indoor mask mandate. He said the move was significant because the city has “flatlined.”

“We haven't had a lot going on here for a while, especially since the pandemic, but even before that ... But just having another empty building filled is a great feeling,” Huff said.

Huff said the restaurant will move into the space formerly occupied by Responders Grill and Bar. The bar failed to open after experiencing staffing problems during the pandemic. A city spokesperson said the space is located off Missouri 291 and 23rd Street.

If all goes according to plan, Rae's will reopen in early November.

Steinmeyer said the restaurant still has to apply for a business license and fill out other paperwork. But he said Wohletz has been hesitant to do so out of safety concerns after facing a backlash for refusing to comply with the county’s mask mandate.

Huff said that Independence gives people the right to wear or not to wear a mask, and that he does not think that Wohletz is “anti-mask.”

“The biggest thing, on this mask mandate type of deal, is making a small business be the police of that. And that's not really fair to our small businesses out here,” Huff said.

Huff, Steinmeyer and Stewart voted against a mask mandate proposed in August.

Independence Councilman Dan Hobart, who supported a mask mandate, declined to comment on the restaurant’s move. Mayor Eileen Weir, who also supported the mandate, could not be reached for comment.

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