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Old Casa Bonita displays and 'Penny Pincher' machine put up for sale online

The man who spent 45 years operating the “Jail Photos!” room at Casa Bonita speaks to 9NEWS about selling some historic items from the iconic restaurant.

LAKEWOOD, Colo. — As the new owners of Casa Bonita spend millions on renovating the Mexican-themed restaurant, one retired entrepreneur is selling items from his time at the iconic establishment.  

Displays that many Coloradans will find familiar were found being sold on Facebook, including the “Jail Photos” and “Old Time Portraits” signs. 

Facebook posts also reveal the “Penny Pincher” machine that embedded images of Casa Bonita’s logo and imagery on flattened pennies already sold for $2,000. 

Credit: Photo courtesy of James McLaughlin
The old Casa Bonita Penny Pincher
Credit: Photo courtesy of James McLaughlin
Pennies pinched in James McLaughlin's machine


Behind the postings is James McLaughlin who owned and operated the photo operations, the snow cone machine, the “Penny Pincher” machine and ATMs inside Casa Bonita for decades. 

McLaughlin spoke to 9NEWS from his home in Florida where he retired five years ago. 

“So a lot of reactions were about where did I buy it from? How did I own it?" McLaughlin said. "A lot of sad faces, assuming that they're not going to open the old-time photo studio or the jail studio."

RELATED: Casa Bonita renovation: Photos, documents reveal $12 million plans

McLaughlin said he was approached by a manager of renovations at Casa Bonita to keep running the photo rooms, but declined. He also said the manager never got back to him about buying the old display signs. 

“I'm old, I'm 72 years old, I don't have the energy,” McLaughlin told 9NEWS over Zoom with a laugh. “I enjoyed it. It gave me a great income. I enjoyed being an entrepreneur and starting new ideas.”

McLaughlin said he already sold one of the displays to a local museum. 


South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker purchased Casa Bonita for $3.1 million. 

9NEWS revealed, after a records request to the City of Lakewood, that they are spending millions more on renovations.

McLaughlin said he hopes the new owners have success. 

“I think they're going to be very surprised when they actually open the doors the first day, and they’ll have a line that's all the way down the plaza like it was back in the 70s,” McLaughlin said. 

“And whether or not they can handle that amount of people, It'll be interesting to see," McLaughlin added. "I think they'll do a good job." 

“We are not aware of, or involved in, the sale of any items from Casa Bonita,” Dana Rodriguez, Casa Bonita’s culinary partner and executive chef, said in a statement provided by the restaurant's media representatives.

If you have any information on this story or would like to send a news tip, you can contact jeremy@9news.com

Credit: Photo courtesy of James McLaughlin
The "original penny machine from Casa Bonita," James McLaughlin says in his post.


RELATED: Casa Bonita picks executive chef to revamp menu

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