The Real Reason The South Park Creators' Casa Bonita Still Isn't Open

In the episode "Casa Bonita," which originally aired in 2003 during season 7 of the animated series "South Park," Kyle Broflovski plans a birthday party trip to visit the titular Mexican restaurant located in Denver. The amoral Eric Cartman isn't invited but still obsesses over a chance to go eat and play at one of his favorite places, ethics be damned.

After failing to plead his way into Kyle's good graces, Cartman hatches a nefarious plan to deceive and hide away his Casa Bonita replacement, Butters Stotch, hoping he'll be selected as a last-minute add-on after faux apologizing to Kyle. His kidnapping plot is uncovered (spoiler alert) just as the birthday party enters the restaurant, and Cartman evades police capture long enough to indulge in cliff diving from an indoor waterfall and hastily exploring Black Bart's Cave, much to his elation.

The Casa Bonita depicted in the show was actually a real-life Mexican restaurant and entertainment venue based in Denver that in addition to food featured cliff-diving performances off a man-made waterfall, cave-like tunnels, and kitschy roadside attraction decor (per Restaurant Hospitality). Guests entered through its bright pink facade. It closed in 2020 amid the pandemic and filed for bankruptcy in April 2021, according to Nation's Restaurant News. None other than the creators of South Park Trey Parker and Matt Stone stepped in for a restaurant rescue, buying the business in 2021 (via The Denver Post).

'Pretty home' makeover

From the "it seemed like a good idea at the time" department, Parker and Stone figured they had the capital and clout to reopen Casa Bonita, which had been in existence for nearly 50 years before going under. A bankruptcy judge approved their offer to purchase the restaurant for $3.1 million (per Restaurant Business). But fast forward to summer 2022 and Casa Bonita still isn't open.

In an August interview with the Denver Post, they expressed regret over buying the nostalgic Colorado landmark of their childhood and compared its ongoing renovations to an episode of British chef and TV personality Gordon Ramsay's show "Kitchen Nightmares." The building had suffered from years of neglect and needed a massive overhaul on everything from HVAC and plumbing to electrical. Its attempted revival has basically been a money pit that's swallowed more and more of Parker and Stone's cash (via Denver7). 

Yet they acknowledged that they're in too deep to back out now. In an effort to improve the food, Parker and Stone hired James Beard-nominated Denver chef Dana Rodriguez (per Eater) and are retaining and paying Casa Bonita staff full-time to work at local area nonprofits while they wait for the restaurant to reopen. As for now though, Cartman and everyone else will just have to be patient as the revamp continues.