The last of the local restaurants that had remained shuttered after Governor Jared Polis ordered all eateries closed as of March 17, 2020, are slowly reopening — or at least revealing future plans. But that 800-pound gorilla, the legendary Casa Bonita (which actually had a gorilla on site), is still locked up tight.
The Casa Bonita website that came back to life in March — "re-opening soon," it promises — has not been updated in months, and the Facebook link is still broken. There was some action this spring, but not at 6715 West Colfax Avenue in Lakewood, where Casa Bonita opened back in 1974: In April, the ownership group, Summit Family Restaurants, filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Phoenix, in order to stave off eviction by the landlord.
And that opened a new avenue for fans of the pink eatertainment palace, led by top fan and artrepreneur Andrew Novick, whose website motto is "I Save Everything" — and how.
Novick and other supporters formed Save Casa Bonita and have been campaigning for months to raise community awareness — and funds (currently over $63,000 on a GoFundMe campaign launched March 14) — to make sure the metro area does not lose this pop-culture landmark. They're now part of the bankruptcy action, having paid off some of the vendors who were stiffed when Casa Bonita closed, making Save Casa Bonita LLC a creditor.
On Monday, June 14 (which happens to be Flag Day), the Save Casa Bonita group will discuss this move and talk about the next step at a rally to Raise the Flag for Casa Bonita. Yes, there will be sopaipillas (the most edible fare at Casa Bonita, and often the only reason to raise the flag for second helpings), as well as performances by the Talisman Quartet, the mariachi band that played at Casa Bonita until the day it closed.
The band was one of the vendors that Save Casa Bonita LLC made whole. Save Casa Bonita has also retained counsel in Phoenix, where the bankruptcy was filed. "The trustee of the case said it was refreshing that the community was getting involved in the case, which he said is rare," the group reports. "Casa Bonita has not submitted a payment plan for the creditors yet, but if the bankruptcy is approved, it could be years before they are paid off. The owners of Casa Bonita still say they are planning on opening, but there are no details."
Back in February, when pandemic restrictions were still tight on restaurants, Casa Bonita/Summit Family owner Robert Wheaton told Westword this: “I don’t expect a change in regulations until the vaccine is more broadly distributed. The message to the community is that we expect to be back in operation by the beginning of the summer.”
Summer is now just over a week away, and you can get a vaccination more easily than you can an order of sopaipillas, but Casa Bonita is still MIA.
My Brother's Bar is another Denver institution, and one that's been wide open — at least on the patio and in the parking lot — since food service was again allowed in Colorado. Danny Newman, who's active in Save Casa Bonita, is also a fan of saving things: He stepped up to help save Denver's oldest bar, purchasing it with his family from the Karagas family several years ago. (Its onetime sibling, the Wazee Lounge at 1600 15th Street, morphed into Morin, which never reopened after the initial shutdown — but just revealed that it will be back this summer as a new kind of steakhouse, A5.)
Denver is coming back to life. Could Casa Bonita come back, too? Find out more about the Raise the Flag for Casa Bonita rally here.