South Park Creators End Tips at Casa Bonita, Pay $30 an Hour

  • Casa Bonita, a 50-year-old Mexican restaurant in Colorado, reopened after a $40 million renovation.
  • South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker bought the joint, which was featured in their show.
  • They eliminated tips, and are now paying $30 an hour. Some staff members are mad about that.

Casa Bonita — the 52,000 square-foot pink palace in Lakewood, Colorado, known for Mexican food and cliff divers — won’t be offering tips to servers and bartenders. 

The nearly 50-year-old establishment— which shut down in March 2020— reopened last week after a buzzy, $40 million renovation.

It was purchased by Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the creators of the animated sitcom series South Park in September 2021, after the restaurant filed for bankruptcy earlier that year, according to The Denver Post.

The series, which is set in the fictional small town of South Park, Colorado, features Casa Bonita in an episode in its seventh season. 

Trey Parker and Matt Stone

Trey Parker (left) and Matt Stone, the creators of South Park, purchased Casa Bonita in 2021.

Araya Doheny / Contributor/Getty Images

According to a promo video for the restaurant published in January that featured the state’s governor, Casa Bonita’s second incarnation was supposed to create more than 500 new jobs. 

In January, Fox31 reported that Casa Bonita “2.0” would offer salaries for its waitstaff (which they would receive in addition to tips) ranging between $14.27 to $15.27.

Days before opening, though, the restaurant reportedly asked employees to sign new contracts that offered hourly wages for servers and bartenders of $30 an hour, according to Axios Denver. The catch was that they would no longer receive tips to supplement their wages, Axios reported. (The minimum wage in Colorado is $13.65, according to the state’s labor department.)

Employees were given one day to decide whether they wanted to sign the new contract or quit, Axios said, citing a conversation with one employee, and documents provided by another employee, who both asked to remain anonymous due to a confidentiality agreement.

While the higher hourly wages are likely to provide waitstaff with a more stable source of income when the restaurant isn’t too busy, they might result in lower total wages of potentially hundreds of dollars per shift when the restaurant is full, Axios reported, based on its conversations and document review.

It’s also not clear what would happen if a patron does decide to leave a tip. 

Casa Bonita interior

The zany interior of Casa Bonita, pictured in 2019, has been remodeled, while still being faithful to the original, the new owners have said.

Hyoung Chang / Contributor/Getty Images

Right now, guests are being sent links via email to purchase tickets to enter and eat at Casa Bonita, which means it functions more like a one-stop entertainment destination than just a restaurant.

The establishment, which the Denver Gazette recently referred to as the “Disneyland of Mexican restaurants,” boasts an indoor cave known as Black Bart’s cave and indoor cliff divers. In the past it has also featured roaming mariachi bands, though no word on whether they’re still roaming the aisles.

While Casa Bonita did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for a comment, Stefanie Jones, a spokesperson for the restaurant, told Axios that the restaurant decided on the $30 wage rate after a testing period. 

Jones told Axios a statement that “Casa Bonita values its employees,” and added that “based on the recent beta testing of our one-of-a-kind restaurant, we have adjusted our compensation system for efficiency and fairness.” 

Casa Bonita’s decision to eliminate tipping comes as customers complain about tipping fatigue as more businesses are asking them to tip at cash registers and even at self-checkout stations.

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