Casa Bonita is a puzzle in pink.
The grand re-opening date for Colorado’s Disneyland of Mexican restaurants is as hush-hush as Prince Harry’s next royal seating assignment.
Word is employees are bound to a non-disclosure-agreement, which explains the mystery surrounding any details as to the possible resurrection of Black Bart's Cave, 30-foot waterfalls or never-ending sopapillas.
Casa Bonita faithful chased a red herring Friday, and some even turned out to be first-in-line for a rumored opening, but new owners and "South Park" creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone were Cinco de Mayo no-shows.
“It’s all so secretive. It’s like working next door to the CIA,” Terry King said.
The attendant was happily folding sheets on a long metal table at the Coin Laundry, which he said is one of Colorado’s largest laundromats with at least 200 washing machines. Coin Laundry is just three doors down from Casa Bonita to the south with large plate-glass windows with a great view of delivery vehicles as they unload their haul.
Friday, a Fed Ex truck backed up to Casa Bonita’s front door and wheeled out a large metal box wrapped in plastic.
Yellow police crime scene tape surround the entrance was removed and the square object was wheeled inside.
A refrigerator for the kitchen? An ape costume? A concealed cliff diver?
No, the FedEx driver revealed. It was only a locker cabinet.
There was no scoop in the back parking lot either, which revealed only rows cars of all shapes and price points, a chain link fence and a few dumpsters.
It's the unfolding of the inside that Casa Bonitans are waiting for.
Terry King heard that in order to keep photos and videos from leaking, Casa Bonita workers couldn’t bring cell phones into the building and that security guards had to turn off their body-worn cameras.
An email to Shannan Reece, with Feed Media, asking about the security guard situation and wondering about the opening got this response:
Thank you so much, we really appreciate your interest and are just as eager as everyone else for Casa Bonita to open. Unfortunately, we aren’t able to provide responses or interviews at this time but would be happy to discuss once Casa Bonita is open.
I’m more of a Simpson’s guy
There has been plenty of activity in the Lamar Station Plaza outdoor shopping mall as workers in Casa Bonita polo shirts zig-zag around the front of the iconic pink stucco castle and fountain with clipboards.
A videographer asked passers-by to interview with him about their memories of the Casa through the years. When a reporter asked him when it would open, he called his boss in New York to ask if he could interview with the person he wanted to interview.
He hunched his shoulders and slinked away whispering, missing out on what could have been a real scene-stealer of an interview.
Hungry workers ambled over and bought sleeves of kettle corn at the Kettle Corn and Snow Cone stand on the southern edge of the parking lot.
“I didn’t really watch South Park. I’m more of a Simpson’s guy,” said the kettle corn guy between bites of a Cup O’ Noodles. Justin Goin is worried because he’s been told to move his storage trailer which sits in the parking lot to make room for Casa Bonita customers.
Some of the businesses located in the strip mall at 6431-6791 W. Colfax Ave. are concerned about what will happen if a potential swarm of cars snarl the roads if Casa Bonita and the neighboring ARC thrift store butt heads with simultaneous grand openings.
A sign on ARC’s shuttered front doors announces a May 22 redevelopment reopening date.
“We’re looking forward to Casa Bonita being open, but we’re also a little nervous,” admitted Serina King, manager of Adventure Dental, a children's eyeglass and braces clinic which is directly to the right of Casa Bonita and sports a cartoon character called Captain Smile.
King said that Casa Bonita management has been good about in-person meetings to hear out the business owners.
“We told them we were worried about (patient) parents who won’t want to be here because of concerns about crowding,” said King.
Still, she said, everyone is “super-excited and curious.”
“It’s rad,” said Dental Vision employee Brendon Matthews. He remembers going to Casa Bonita as a child during Cherry Creek Challenge School’s summer camp.
“It was our batter-up field trip,” he said, third only to kid-friendly summer haunts like Water World and Elitch Gardens Theme and Water Park.
“I just hope the food is better this time around,” said Stefanni Bonicelli, one of the disappointed Cinco de Mayo-faux-opening hopefuls. “I remember putting up a flag for unlimited sopapillas and that gorilla. It scared the (blank) out of me.”
Casa Bonita through the years
When Casa Bonita was shuttered at the beginning of COVID in March 2020, a group of concerned citizens raised $68,000 through a Save Casa Bonita GoFundMe campaign, which, according to the site, went toward “paying some of the creditors in need, participating in hearings and retaining legal counsel.”
In Aug. 2021, Parker and Stone purchased Casa Bonita for $3.1 million. A year later, under the name Beautiful Opco, they filed a complaint to stop documents like permit applications and building plans from being released.
The two popular Colorado natives are going to have plenty of material from the fabled west side of Colfax for future adventures of "South Park" characters Cartman and Kenny.
At the turn of the 20th century, the Jewish Consumptive Relief Society used the property for a sanitarium to treat tuberculosis patients, most of them coming into Colorado to enjoy the dry air from the East Coast.
Just blocks to the west on the south side of the street sits the infamous Big Bunny Motel. The neon sign was altered from Bugs Bunny Motel after Warner Bros. made them change the name in 1997.
The actress Sue Lyon, famous for her role in the movie Lolita, lived there in 1973 when she was married to Gary “Cotton” Adamson, who was in a Colorado prison for second degree murder.
Following an argument at the motel, Lyon tried to jump from one of the Bugs Bunny’s windows which turned out to be on the first floor.
In the 1950’s, Jewish Consumptive Relief Society was such a cumbersome name for a shopping center, the was shortened to JCRS.
In 2007, when Save-a-Lot and ARC were both tenants, JCRS was honored by Westword as “Best Strip Mall for Cheapskates.”
JCRS was redeveloped and renamed Lamar Station Plaza in 2014.
Names like J.C. Penney, Woolworth’s, Joslins, Big Sur Waterbeds, Cost Cutters and Mr. Tux have been replaced by current businesses like a Dollar Tree, WestFax Brewery and Planet Fitness.
Crossing fingers for a Casa Bonita landmark birthday
Sharon Kadinger remembers the 30-foot waterfall and locking her son Rex in the Casa Bonita jail.
“We always came for the special effects on Halloween,” said Kadinger. “My children took their children who are taking their children.”
She still has photos of her grandchildren dressed in Western garb, locked up in the fake jail.
Just like Kyle celebrated Cartman's birthday in "South Park's" seventh season, Rexs Kadinger is hoping that Casa Bonita will be open by May 18 in time for his 50th milestone year.
If it does, he'll be tickled pink.
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