A Blue Springs cafe and its owner who have defied Jackson County’s health order counter sued the county, claiming it does not have legal authority to issue a mask mandate, according to court documents.
In her counterclaim, Amanda Wohletz, the owner of Rae’s Cafe, asked the court determine that the county’s effort to enforce the mandate “is unlawful, nonsensical and is intended only to punish those who speak out against arbitrary and capricious ‘mandates.’”
She claimed that the Jackson County Health Department targeted her business after she spoke out against the mask mandate and expressed her disagreement about the authority of the county to issue such an order.
When asked for comment about the counterclaim, a county spokeswoman referred to the county’s previous statements and court filings.
Wohletz implored the court to rule that the county’s health order is unlawful and unconstitutional, and that the revocation of its food establishment permit be declared null and void.
Wohletz and Rae’s also seek an unspecified amount in damages as well as a court order allowing Rae’s Cafe to continue to operate as Rae’s Private Club.
Jackson County’s current mask order was first reinstated in early August as the highly-contagious delta variant drove up cases and hospitalizations.
Everyone ages 5 and up is required to wear a face covering when visiting indoor public spaces, with some exceptions, including medical exemptions or removing the masks while dining. Extension of the order was approved by county leaders on Aug. 30.
The cafe, located in a strip center on Missouri 7 highway in Blue Springs, has for weeks defied Jackson County’s mask order and orders for it to shut down.
Inspectors were sent to the cafe after receiving complaints about the cafe disregarding the mandate. A warning was issued on Aug. 18. Citations were issued on Aug. 27 and Aug. 30. The cafe’s food permit was revoked on Sept. 3.
Jackson County officials filed a lawsuit Sept. 10 seeking a court order to close the cafe, accusing its owner of “endangering the health, safety and welfare of the community.”
County officials were granted a temporary restraining order that prevented Wohletz from operating Rae’s Cafe, which was modified last week to include the exception that it could be operated as permitted by the county’s health order.
The modified order noted that the health order exempts the mask requirement for those with disabilities where masks would be a substantial impairment to their health and well-being based on medical direction.
Wohletz previously, and in the new court filings, maintains that she is operating within the bounds of the law. All of her employees told her that “wearing masks caused them anxiety and mental stress and that these medical conditions prevented them from being able to work in a mask,” according to the suit.
The employees provided medical exempt cards, copies of which were included as evidence in the suit.
The suit also contends that Wohletz stopped operating Rae’s Cafe on Sept. 3 and converted the restaurant space to a private members-only club known as Rae’s Private Club, which is exempt from the health order.