Three local restaurants got involved in Covid culture wars – results vary

Elisa and Marjain Breitenbach “hate politics”. The owners of Doughboys Donuts in Raytown wake up at 1 a.m. to start their day so they can be stocked up on Bismarks and Red Velvet Donuts when they open before dawn. Making donuts, they say, is enough to keep them busy most of the time.

“This donut business has been our life,” says Marjain. “We eat, sleep, drink this donut business. Everyone knows that we are conservatives.

The Breitenbachs are known to hang a political sign or two on their window, including one in August that read, “Stop importing COVID from Mexico, unmask the truth.” “

“We wanted people to expose all the issues plaguing the border,” says Elisa, who points to a long list of concerns. “The influx of illegal aliens is not driving the Covid pandemic, but it is affecting the total number. “

The sign sparked a firestorm in Raytown, a racially and politically diverse blue-collar community. Among those angry was Chris Meyers, owner of nearby Crane Brewing, who spoke forcefully about the issue on social media and to local TV crews. The battle has become personal.

“Chris and I thought we were friends,” Elisa says. “He’s very liberal, I know, and I’m very conservative. I do not hate the Liberals. I don’t hate people who are different from me.

Meyers says the couple “broke my heart.”

“I liked them both very much, and then slowly this behavior showed up,” he posted on Facebook. “These people blame immigrants for Covid, who a year ago blamed the Chinese using the same rhetoric that made Asians attack. “

Almost two years after the start of the pandemic, the Battle of Raytown is one of many examples of a hardworking community unraveling the media divide. In this era of extreme political polarization, small business owners have found themselves embroiled in fierce battles. This is especially true for restaurants, which have been hammered by the loss of customers, rising food prices and understaffing. In some cases, this tension has escalated into symbolic positions that fuel the partisan contempt machine and leave relationships and businesses devastated in their wake.

Here is the story of three such fights in Kansas City.

Doughboys Donuts

The fight: Doughboys Donuts hung a sign that blamed the Covid bloom numbers on immigrants crossing the southern border (no published scientific evidence supports this claim).

The problem, Elisa says, is not with the Mexicans, which is why they changed the sign. “There are people from over 150 nations crossing this border,” she said. “I am completely in favor of closing the border, so I think it is important.”

The question is not only academic for the Breitenbachs. The father of their two grandchildren is an undocumented Mexican immigrant, whom the couple “paid thousands of dollars to help secure the law.” In August, Doughboys had its busiest week because of the sign, then announced it was shutting down due to equipment failure. Elisa says it was the Coke machine failure. Online, Meyer, from the nearby brewery, suggested otherwise in a detailed timeline of events.

Both Breitenbachs fell ill with Covid, which led to Marjain’s hospitalization.

“I have regret,” said Elisa. “The reason we had Covid is that we went to a family function. We were celebrating two weddings. One of the younger nephews was not feeling well but did not share it with any of us. Seven of us got sick. None of us called the others. People need to know to stay home if someone feels the least bit sick, and if you do get sick, tell someone you were with. And people need to understand that in the face of Covid there are all kinds of symptoms – we were just exhausted. “

The following : Doughboys was shut down for six weeks as the Breitenbachs battled the disease and regained their strength. Today they are reopened. They still oppose vaccines and mask warrants, but will abide by the mask rules because they assume they will be under the microscope.

“There were no masks at the Chiefs games while Rae’s Cafe [see below] was being closed, ”says Marjain. “They choose what we can and cannot do, and it makes a difference who you are.”

“We have to play, dance and do these jigs as they please,” says Elisa.

Don Chilito’s

Don Chilito’s is a fifty year old institution in Mission run by Barry Cowden, the second generation owner. A Gadsden flag has flown from the top of the restaurant since March 2020. Cowden has gone public with his opposition to the maks mandate, but has never fallen out with Johnson County over it. In September, Cowden announced he was retiring because the concept needs a refresh and “needs a young man with a lot of energy, and I don’t have any more.”

The fight: Cowden, who disputes scientists who say the masks work, said he opposed the mask’s mandate, and the county asked him to enforce it. He refused. “They sent someone here to talk to me and ask my position and I told them very clearly and calmly that it was a violation of my rights,” he said. “And I never heard from them again.”

The following : Cowden says he gained clients and received letters and money from all over the country. In September, Cowden announced that he was planning to retire to a farm west of Tonganoxia. He says he’s been approached by people who want to buy the restaurant, but won’t sell it because he’s family.

“I won clients, my opposition to mandates was beneficial to me,” he says. “I’m not sorry for everything I’ve done. I’m proud of it and would do it again. I haven’t lost any relationship that is important to me. There were plenty of detractors, but they weren’t my clients; they were the trolls.

Rae’s Coffee

The fight: In Blue Springs, a restaurant named Rae’s has lost a long battle with the Jackson County Department of Health. Rae’s resistance to ordering masks had been brewing since at least January, when cafe owner Amanda Wohletz filmed a selfie rant about the masks and posted it on the company page. “Personally, I don’t think the mask does shit, I’m going to be honest with you – and this is my Facebook page, so I can have my own opinion,” she says. “I don’t want to hear yours, by the way.”

In August, Wohletz hung a sign on the door stating that she would not enforce the county mask orderr. When he received a small fine, Wohletz took the case to the court of public opinion by appearing on the television news. A wave of Conservative support followed, with the restaurant drawing a line around the block. The county got a court order to shut down the restaurant. Wohletz took the case to court. A GoFundMe was started to pay its legal fees. The page has been deleted by the site. The county won in court.

Wohletz reopened as a private club with a membership fee of $ 1. The club had its own rule: customers were not allowed to wear a mask. The county closed the club again and then won in court again.

The following : Wohletz ignored an email and a phone call asking for comment. Contacted by Facebook, she offered a criticism of the grammar in this reporter’s post but declined any further comment.

In a Facebook post on what would have been the restaurant’s fourth anniversary, Wohletz wrote that “it breaks my heart completely not to be open… because of a mask.

“I made this decision and I take responsibility, but it has completely gone too far,” she wrote, using her heartbroken and crying emojis.

About Nell Love

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