Construction Watch

Judge Temporarily Blocks Release of Casa Bonita Renovation Documents

Casa Bonita on August 10.
Casa Bonita on August 10. Molly Martin
Although Casa Bonita's fresh coat of pink paint has brightened up the beloved building's facade, South Park creators and Colorado legends Trey Parker and Matt Stone, who now own the restaurant, don't want too much light focused on their renovation plans.

And on August 16, a day after Parker and Stone's company, the Beautiful Opco, filed a lawsuit to prevent the release of building documents, Jefferson County Court Judge Randall C. Arp agreed to block the release of the files for three weeks.

The Beautiful Opco had sued the City of Lakewood, where Casa Bonita is located at 6715 West Colfax Avenue, and a handful of other public entities to prevent the release of documents related to "sensitive building materials." The company had learned of the potential records release after the City of Lakewood revealed that city staffers had received a Colorado Open Records Act request for all documents submitted by the Beautiful Opco in relation to Casa Bonita. The Beautiful Opco's lawyers tried to persuade Lakewood not to release some of the materials, but the city told the company it planned to release the documents at 2 p.m. on August 16.

The motion for a temporary restraining order was filed soon after. In it, the Beautiful Opco's lawyers paint a stark picture of what would happen if some of the more "sensitive" materials were released, saying that the documents contain "detailed schematics and security information" of Casa Bonita.

The motion seems to imply that someone with access to these "sensitive" materials could commit a mass shooting at the pink eatertainment palace. "The most joyous occasions spent with our loved ones — at crowded public places just like Casa Bonita — become living nightmares when a person intent on doing deadly harm chooses to walk into our school, grocery store, or movie theatre," the motion states.

In its filing, the Beautiful Opco says that it is only trying to restrict access to a handful of documents and is "not concerned with the release of innocuous materials like the dive pool plans." The subjects of those "sensitive" files are inaccessible, as lawyers for the Beautiful Opco had exhibits attached to their lawsuit sealed.

"The city received two open records requests affected by this case, one from CBS4 and one from Fox 31," says Stacie Oulton, a public information officer for the City of Lakewood. "While today’s hearing resulted in the judge granting a 21-day temporary order prohibiting the city from releasing certain documents, Lakewood will be able to release the majority of the documents that are part of the city’s public records."

The lawsuit came on the heels of 9News acquiring hundreds of pages of documents related to permitting of work at Casa Bonita from the City of Lakewood. From those documents, investigative reporter Jeremy Jojola was able to determine that Parker and Stone are pouring over $12 million into renovations.

While Casa Bonita has been a famous institution in Colorado for close to forty years, the venue shot to international fame when Comedy Central aired a 2003 South Park episode named after the restaurant.

Casa Bonita, which had been owned by Summit Family Restaurants, shut down in March 2020 because of pandemic-related orders. Summit never reopened the restaurant, though, and in April 2021, Summit Family Restaurants filed for bankruptcy protection. Parker and Stone reached out to Summit about buying the place, and last September the two sides struck a deal for the purchase of the Casa Bonita business for $3.1 million. The related purchase of intellectual property associated with Casa Bonita took place outside of the jurisdiction of the bankruptcy court, so the total price may well have been much higher. And the real estate itself was not included in either sale.

Parker and Stone were back in town last week, celebrating through two nights of the South Park 25th Anniversary Concert at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. They told the crowd they'd spent millions renovating Casa Bonita, but gave no time for when it might reopen.
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Conor McCormick-Cavanagh is a staff writer at Westword, where he covers a range of beats, including local politics, immigration and homelessness. He previously worked as a journalist in Tunisia and loves to talk New York sports.