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Jackson County judge orders restaurant to cease operations in mask dispute

A Jackson County judge has ordered a suburban Kansas City restaurant to shut down in the wake of its owner’s continued defiance of a mask mandate intended to fight the spread of COVID-19.

Earlier this month, Judge James Kanatazar ordered Rae’s Cafe in Blue Springs to temporarily close after owner Amanda Wohletz ignored a health department order to close because of repeated violations of the county’s indoor mask requirement.

On Thursday, Judge Jennifer Phillips barred the restaurant from operating, rejecting Wohletz’s argument of medical exemptions and that the restaurant could skirt the mandate by operating as a private club. The judge also ordered Rae’s Cafe to cease operations until it obtained a valid food permit.

On Sept. 3, Jackson County health officials and sheriff’s deputies served Wohletz with an order to close because the mask mandate was being ignored. But the business continued to operate, and its food permit was then suspended. Wohletz reopened as a private club, which charged customers $1 to join and prohibited masks.

Wohletz had said she and all her workers were medically exempt from the mask mandate, saying in court filings that “wearing masks caused them anxiety and mental stress.”

The restaurant was the first business the county sought to close for not following public safety requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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