South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker recently reopened the famed Mexican restaurant and entertainment venue Casa Bonita with a novel pay structure for wait staff featuring $30 an hour but no tips.
Casa Bonita is located in Lakewood, Colorado, and was first opened nearly 50 years ago. The more than 52,000 square-foot restaurant features live indoor cliff divers and a walkthrough cave called Black Bart’s Cave. Its unique offerings recently prompted the Denver Gazette to call Casa Bonita the "Disneyland of Mexican restaurants."
Stone and Parker purchased Casa Bonita in 2021 after its operations were crippled by lockdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in its filing for bankruptcy. The South Park duo bought Casa Bonita for $3.1 million in September 2021 according to the Gazette. Since then, the pair told the New York Times they’ve invested $40 million on renovations and upgrades to the venue ahead of its relaunch.
Mexican restaurant Casa Bonita has been a memory-making institution for decades, filling children with countless sopapillas and dreams of plummeting from the top of a man-made, three-story indoor waterfall while people eat tacos, listen to Mariachi m
The restaurant reopened with limited dining hours while it’s in a soft launch phase and "beta testing" various features, with aspiring guests signing up on a mailing list for an opportunity to buy tickets to enter and dine at Casa Bonita.
Casa Bonita didn’t immediately respond to FOX Business’s request for comment about the compensation system. The restaurant previously told FOX 31 KDVR that, "During our soft-opening nights, we found that guests simply weren’t tipping. We believe it’s due to our unconventional, pre-pay ticketing system."
"In order to provide a higher-than-average, dependable wage, we shifted to a no-tipping model and doubled the hourly rate to more than $30/hr for our service staff," the Casa Bonita spokesperson told KDVR. "This shift also benefits our guests, who can enjoy Casa Bonita without incurring unexpected costs. Of our 256 employees, 93 were a part of the shift and a total of 2 were unhappy about it."
KDVR noted in a report that at $30 an hour, staff at Casa Bonita would earn a few dollars more than the median wage across all occupations in the state of Colorado.
Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data indicates the median wage in the Denver-Aurora-Lakewood metropolitan area was $26.01 as of May 2022.
Stone and Parker dedicated an episode of their hit satirical cartoon series "South Park" to Casa Bonita in the show’s seventh season, which aired in 2003.
The episode is called "Casa Bonita" and chronicles many of the restaurant’s unique features as a venue when the South Park boys go there for a birthday party.