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

Photos obtained by 9NEWS reveal Casa Bonita as never seen before – areas gutted as work began to make it more accessible and modern.

LAKEWOOD, Colo — As the creators of "South Park" pour millions of dollars into Casa Bonita – the iconic and nostalgic restaurant known for its cliff divers, lagoon and sopapillas – 9NEWS has reviewed hundreds of pages of plans, permits and images that show how much costly work is being done inside and outside.

The documents were obtained through an open records request to the City of Lakewood.

Credit: City of Lakewood
A page from the documents showing substantial upgrades and renovations.

Westword was the first media outlet to break the news that "South Park" creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker were buying the restaurant for $3.1 million, but these documents reveal the new owners are spending at least four times as much on renovations and upgrades.

“The total cost of alterations for the primary space as applicable to this provision are approximately $12,125,000,” a response from the project contractor to the City of Lakewood says in the documents.

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For the most part, the plans indicate the iconic elements inside Casa Bonita such as the dive pool, Black Bart’s Cave and seating areas will undergo repairs and improvements to match the original feel of the restaurant.

Credit: City of Lakewood

Yet the kitchen and bathrooms are undergoing substantial renovations while audio and visual elements are being improved, such as new projectors, loudspeakers, lighting, and security cameras throughout the restaurant.

A significant and costly focus of the renovation is creating ramps for accessibility to make the restaurant more ADA compliant, a new vertical platform lift and making more room for “increased accessible seating.”

Credit: City of Lakewood
A blueprint indicates a stage may be demolished to make more room for seating.

“General improvements to the existing Casa Bonita restaurant, including improvements to the: life safety systems, accessibility, HVAC systems, air quality, electrical system, plumbing system and finishes,” a general plan description says. “Accessibility routes will be improved throughout, including a new platform lift and numerous ADA ramps.”

The plans also indicate the contractor applied for a permit to remove approximately 700 square feet of tile that contained asbestos. 

Credit: City of Lakewood
Black Bart's Cave will remain in "preexisting condition."

Dive pool and outdoor fountain

A permit says a “complete renovation of indoor pools and water features and outdoor water feature,” will cost $210,000.00.

Blueprints and plans reveal the dive pool will undergo a renovation with new bonding. The pool, which is 13-and-a-half-feet deep and holds 48,000 gallons of water, will get new steps for the divers that match the artificial rock on its rim.

The plans also reveal a new fountain out front with LED lighting.

Credit: City of Lakewood
New steps planned for dive pool
Credit: City of Lakewood
A blueprint showing a new fountain with LED lighting.

Sound system, lighting, projectors, security cameras

The plans also indicate that improving the audio and visual elements will cost $1.3 million, including a new sound system throughout the restaurant and a security camera system.

Credit: City of Lakewood
Plans show $1.3 million for sound systems, lighting and security cameras

What’s it look like now? 

While it’s unknown what it looks like on the inside today, photos obtained by 9NEWS through the documents reveal that the restaurant was gutted in numerous areas as work began in 2021.

A report by an asbestos inspection company contained dozens of images showing the restaurant like people have never seen it before — from the poolside areas to the iconic game room empty of tables and games.

The photos also show cracked floors in need of repair and gutted kitchen areas.

Credit: City of Lakewood

When will Casa Bonita open?

In a recent interview with The Denver Post, Stone and Parker compared the project to the show "Kitchen Nightmares" and didn’t give an opening date.

While the restaurant was expected to open this summer, the owners hinted to The Denver Post that much more work needs to be done and an opening date can’t be set yet.

“Oh this is going to be what we have to put all our money into and hope that it works,” Trey Parker is quoted in the Post article.

9NEWS has reached out to representatives for Stone and Parker for this story but has not received a response.  

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

EDITOR'S NOTE: One schematic has been removed from this article after attorneys for the restaurant called the station expressing concern about employee safety.

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