This Iconic Mexican Restaurant Just Filed for Bankruptcy

The 46-year-old business developed a national level of notoriety.

As more temporary restaurant closures become permanent, many eateries are struggling to survive after a drop in sales of $240 billion in 2020, according to The National Restaurant Association's 2021 "State of the Restaurant Industry" report (via Restaurant.org). Unfortunately, the lack of revenue is affecting large chains and small independent operations alike, with some institutions falling victim to hard economic times. This now includes beloved Denver-area Mexican restaurant and cultural icon Casa Bonita, which recently filed for bankruptcy. Read on to see why the restaurant is struggling and how fans are reacting to the news, and for more on businesses that are feeling the pandemic pinch, check out This Popular Pizza Chain Just Filed for Bankruptcy.

Casa Bonita has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

bankruptcy petition and pen
Shutterstock/Kenishirotie

Documents obtained from the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Arizona show that Casa Bonita filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on April 6, Denver's local NBC affiliate 9news reports. The massive Lakewood, Colorado-based restaurant, which opened its doors 46 years ago and is known for its caves, arcades, and other over-the-top attractions, has been shuttered since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.

According to the filing, parent company Summit Family Restaurants has noncontingent liquidated debts below $7.5 million, local ABC affiliate Denver7 reports. Fortunately for fans, the filing gives the business time to come up with a financial solution as debts are reorganized and doesn't guarantee that the restaurant will close permanently.

The locally adored restaurant became nationally famous thanks to a classic South Park episode.

south park
Braniff Productions via YouTube

The restaurant has been beloved by Coloradans since it opened its doors thanks to unique attractions—including a 30-foot tall indoor waterfall and cliff divers who entertain diners surrounded by festive decor. It's also played host to the Denver Broncos, who used the location to announce some of their draft picks in 2018, 9news reports.

But the restaurant shot to national fame when it was featured in a 2003 episode of South Park that was based on the childhood memories of the show's co-creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, who both grew up visiting Casa Bonita. Since then, the restaurant has been name-checked in the series multiple times and was even included in its 2017 video game release South Park: The Fractured but Whole, according to The Hollywood Reporter. And for more on cherished businesses that are in danger of closing, check out This Beloved Movie Theater Chain Just Filed for Bankruptcy.

Trey Parker and Matt Stone almost bought the restaurant in 2016.

South Park co-creators Trey Parker at Matt Stone on the red carpet at an event
Shutterstock

While the ties between South Park and Casa Bonita have helped make the eatery somewhat iconic, there was a point where the two were almost brought even closer together. During a 2016 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Parker admitted that the duo had once considered purchasing the restaurant.

"Four years ago, it came up for sale, and we had 10 minutes of like, 'We should buy it,' because they do have a few things up there now where they're like, this is the South Park Casa Bonita. There are people who go to Casa Bonita because of South Park," Parker said.

A GoFundMe has been started in an attempt to save the restaurant.

gofundme website on laptop
Shutterstock

Even though the restaurant's website claims that it will be re-opening soon, concerned fans of the beloved restaurant are already springing to action with a GoFundMe campaign. "Casa Bonita is an important cultural and historic icon and a vibrant piece of the Colorado landscape," the fundraisers write. The "SAVE CASA BONITA" fundraising drive's page has already raised more than $24,000 out of its $100,000 goal as of Apr. 14. And for more beloved businesses that are struggling to survive, check out This Popular Department Store Just Filed for Bankruptcy.

Zachary Mack
Zachary covers beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He's the owner of Alphabet City Beer Co. in New York City and is a Certified Cicerone. Read more
Filed Under
 •  •