It’s been nearly a year since “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone purchased Lakewood’s iconic restaurant Casa Bonita, but they’re no closer to figuring out when it may open.
In an interview with The Denver Post, Parker and Stone lamented the project, if endearingly, saying they had no clue what they were getting themselves into when they picked up the landmark, which they enjoyed while growing up on the Front Range and have featured in “South Park.”
“Have you ever seen ‘Kitchen Nightmares’? It’s the very, very worst one of those you could possibly ever imagine,” said Parker. “What we thought would be, ‘Oh this will be cool. We can buy this and open it and it’ll be around again,’ turned into ‘Oh this is going to be what we have to put all our money into and hope that it works.’”
For months now, Casa Bonita has been a full blown construction site with a crew of about 80 people there daily trying to remedy the building, which Parker and Stone said had been severely neglected. Things like updating the HVAC system and plumbing, and work on electrical and gas lines – “we’re talking about just health and safety stuff, like so someone won’t die,” Stone said.
The fountain out front, for example, was razed earlier this summer amid concerns it may crumble. It is expected to be rebuilt.
“The previous owners deferred maintenance in an almost superhuman way,” said Stone. “They just didn’t take care of anything. And they ran it completely into the ground.”
Those owners, Summit Family Restaurants, couldn’t be reached for comment; The Denver Post will update this story if a contact is located.
Victoria Will, The Associated PressIn this March 16, 2011 photo, Trey Parker, right, and Matt Stone, co-creators of the Broadway show “The Book of Mormon,” stand outside the Eugene O’Neill Theatre in New York.
The infrastructure updates are all before the duo starts on their vision to make Casa Bonita a bigger, better and more modern version of itself. Despite a lack of timeline for the project, both men reiterated the restaurant and entertainment venue, which has been a cultural touchstone for Coloradans, will reopen someday.
“Anyone else that’s said, ‘Oh I wanted to buy Casa Bonita,’ they wouldn’t have made it because this is going to cost so much and it’s really dumb,” said Parker. “We absolutely should bail and stop spending money, but we’re committed now.”
As for other landmarks, such as the Coney Island Boardwalk hot dog stand, that have since hit the market, Parker and Stone said they’ve considered saving them.
“I told Les Claypool (of Primus) about the hot dog and he [expletive] flipped out. He was like, ‘You have to buy that hot dog,’” said Stone.
“We don’t have any money left over. It’s all going into Casa Bonita,” said Parker. “I would love to buy the hot dog and put it in the parking lot of Casa Bonita, I think that’d be amazing.”
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“But we just can’t take on another broken restaurant project right now,” Stone said.
Aside from the Casa Bonita project, Parker and Stone are currently preparing for the “South Park” 25th anniversary concert, in which they’ll join Primus and Ween in playing some of the show’s most beloved and vulgar tunes. (They’re also admittedly nervous to do so.)
The anniversary celebration comes to Red Rocks on Tuesday and Wednesday, bringing it with it an exhibit with “South Park” props and memorabilia.