Rae’s Café owner thankful for fresh start in Independence following mask controversy

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INDEPENDENCE, Mo — A Blue Springs restaurant at the center of the mask controversy is moving to Independence. Rae’s Café will take over the Responders Bar and Grill space along 291 Highway near 23rd Street.

“Just thank you to Independence for allowing us to move here and giving us a fresh start,” said Amanda Wohletz, owner of Rae’s Café.

While at her location in Blue Springs, Wohletz continually defied Jackson County’s mask mandate by not requiring employees or customers to wear masks while in her restaurant.

Despite citations, revocation of her operating and food service licenses and shut down orders from the Jackson County Health Department, Wohletz continued to be open for business until a judge ordered her to close on September 23.

Wohletz claims several other counties reached out to her, inviting the small business owner to move. She chose Independence, which is still in Jackson County, but has its own health department and does not have a mask mandate.

“I’m sure she has open arms for people wearing masks,” said Independence City Councilman Mike Huff. “I don’t think she’s an anti-mask person by any stretch.”

Wohletz is embroiled in a battle against Jackson County over her decision not to impose the Jackson County health order in her business. She would not address masking but Huff and Councilman Mike Steinmeyer said this move is about a small business owner doing what she can to survive, not about masking.

“That’s their choice,” Steinmeyer said. “People that feel comfortable are obviously going to go in and support that and if not, they’re going to stay home,”

Because of a shortage of staff, Responders was never able to move in to its Independence location, so this move was good for Rae’s, Responders and the owner of the strip mall on 291. Wohletz still has to get permits and other business licenses, so Rae’s Cafe opening date has not been determined.

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