For decades, Casa Bonita had been more than a restaurant to Colorado locals. Spanning over 52,000 square feet in the Denver suburb of Lakewood, the Mexican restaurant featured waterfalls, a pool, puppet shows, and faux gold and silver mines. While it originally opened in 1974 and is relatively well-known among Denver residents, the spot gained worldwide attention after being featured in a South Park episode in 2003.
In a story published this week, South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone told the New York Times that after the episode aired, people would ask them all the time if such a wild establishment actually existed.
“Oh, that’s a place,” Parker told the outlet he would respond. “It’s crazy. It’s weird.”
So, after the iconic restaurant went bankrupt during the pandemic and news of the closure garnered widespread attention from Colorado residents who rallied to help salvage the institution (from gathering outside to starting a GoFundMe that raised nearly $69,000) — Parker and Stone ended up purchasing the restaurant in August 2021 for $3.1 million.
Now, nearly two years later, the restaurant is expected to reopen in the coming weeks after the duo funneled “upwards of $40 million dollars” into renovations, The Times reported.
“We could have rebuilt this twice as big, for half as much money, but we spent so much restoring it, like a piece of art,” Stone told the outlet.
The revamped Denver restaurant will feature a new executive chef, James Beard Award nominee, Dana Rodriguez, whose kitchen staff of nearly 110 will make everything from scratch — including 198 gallons of mole sauce fresh every night, green chile-braised brisket, enchiladas, and sopaipillas with honey to name a few.
The original renovation cost was estimated at $10 million, Stone and Parker told The Times, which then turned to $20 million, and eventually added up to what Stone said was “infinity dollars.”
Ahead of the opening, the team is still assessing prices for the restaurant. “What we’ve come to realize over the last couple of months is, now we have a lot of work to do to make it a sustainable business,” Parker told the outlet.