BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. (WDAF) — A Missouri café that was deemed an imminent health hazard is turning into a private club to circumvent COVID-19 rules.
The county health department ordered Rae’s Cafe to shut down immediately Friday after receiving several complaints that employees were not complying with the county’s mask mandate. The county requires everyone to wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status.
But the cafe’s owner came up with a plan to stay open. She put a sign up on the cafe’s door saying the business was now open as a “private club.” There’s a dress code, too: no masks allowed.
Private clubs aren’t affected by the county’s indoor mask mandate. As a private club, members will have to pay one dollar each time to get in. A sign on the door also warns members they assume any and all risks of disease transmission.
Owner Amanda Wohletz said she doesn’t feel her employees have done anything wrong because they have medical reasons not to wear masks, making them exempt from the county’s policy.
Wohletz said she plans to keep her kitchen open “as long as I can, as long as they let me.”
The Jackson County Health Department said it issued Rae’s Cafe a warning, two tickets, and a notice that failure to comply with the mask mandate would lead to its business permit being revoked.
“Despite our multiple attempts to work with the business to comply, the owner knowingly and willingly continued to violate the health order,” county administrator Troy Schulte said in a statement.
“It is clear by the number of complaints we received that people in our community are concerned about the spread of the virus and are holding others accountable to prevent further pain, sickness and death in our community. Our order is in place to protect public health. We are grateful for those businesses who are doing their part to help us get through this pandemic and will continue to act accordingly for those who are not.”
The cafe’s defiance of the mask mandate was getting mixed reviews from members of the community.
“If I was in a restaurant and I was eating the food, I would kind of want the people in the restaurant wearing a mask while being served,” Michael Herrick said.
Others were curious about how to become members to support the business.
“I’m going to have to get their number and join it. I will support anybody that will stand up to a bunch of bolognas,” Walter Kirk said.