BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. — The controversy over masking at a Blue Springs restaurant has a new twist. Rae’s Café declared itself a private club to avoid Jackson County’s indoor mask mandate.
This after a run-in with the county and this latest move could land the owner in court and even impact business.
After Rae’s Café’s business license was suspended last week for violating Jackson County’s mandate, the owner kept her place open but as a private club, charging customers $1 to join. One of the rules is no masks allowed.
Jackson County Legislator Teresa Galvin did not vote to extend the Jackson County mask mandate because she said the majority of people she represents did not want it. Although it passed with a 6 to 3 vote, Galvin said she never envisioned what’s happening at Rae’s Café in Blue Springs.
“Desperate times call for desperate measures,” she said. “And people are just trying to do what they can to survive. But it looks like the owner of this business actually thought outside of the box and found a way that she could keep her business open and keep her employees working.”
The emergency orders state places of public accommodation must follow and enforce the mask mandate but goes on to read, public accommodations, shall not include a private club.
Attorney Phil Levota has concerns about Rae’s Café becoming a private club to get around the order.
“I sure hope they did talk to an attorney because they’re trying some new legal strategy to get around the law,” he said. “I can only speculate that they’re trying to say, ‘well, we’re not open to the public. Your mandate says the public has to wear masks, we’re not public or private, you have to pay a flat fee to come in and be part of our club.’ But the problem is they are charging for their food too, I assume. And that will not get your route, you’re still have to follow the health department rules if you’re charging for food.”
In a statement, Jackson County said “The county will take the necessary steps to ensure the health order is enforced.”
Levota said the county will most likely proceed with legal action if necessary and apply for a temporary restraining order, so a judge can decide if Rae’s Café has found a loophole to avoid following the county’s mask mandate.
“It might sound like a great idea to write then that impulse to do it,” Levota said. “And she probably had a big uptick in customers but she could have some some legal consequences down the line that could really affect her ability to be a business.”