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'A real-life financial nightmare': Casa Bonita employees demand better compensation, working conditions

The collective, which calls itself #WeAreTeamCasa, provided ownership with the letter at an all-hands meeting last Wednesday.
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Posted at 9:44 PM, Jul 19, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-19 23:44:06-04

LAKEWOOD, Colo. — A group of 50 Casa Bonita employees last week gave the restaurant’s owners – “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone – a list of demands centered around working conditions and compensation, according to a statement from the group obtained by our Denver news partners.

The collective, which calls itself #WeAreTeamCasa, provided ownership with the letter at an all-hands meeting last Wednesday.

The statement, obtained by our Denver news partners Wednesday evening, says employees at the famous restaurant haven’t been given what was promised to them as Casa Bonita has slowly rolled out its phased “soft openings.”

The demands include clarity on the restaurant’s hours of operation and health benefits for employees, as well as transparency from ownership and “a voice in the workplace.” The group has also asked for the ability to review employment documents before signing, and the reinstatement of former employees who left over contract disputes.

Casa Bonita sent the following statement to our news partners in response to the letter Wednesday night:

“Casa Bonita strives to create the best working environment for its employees. This includes implementing the best compensation structure for all employees—not just a few. To the extent some employees have concerns about our policies, we will continue to make ourselves available to discuss their concerns, individually or as a group.”

#WeAreTeamCasa claims in its letter that it gave restaurant ownership a week to respond and had not heard back.

Days before Casa Bonita’s limited reopening last month, its staff was informed that the restaurant would no longer accept tips, and instead would pay wait staff a flat rate of $30 an hour, according to The Denver Post.

Employees were originally promised benefits, the collective says, but many haven’t met an hours threshold to qualify for benefits as there has been “no clear pathway to being open seven days a week.” The restaurant has only been operating Thursday through Sunday since its reopening last month.

“This is a bait-and-switch,” Russ Lee, a former bartender who says he was fired by the restaurant, said in the statement. “We were excited about the possibility of reviving a Denver institution, but what began as a really fun adventure has turned into a real-life financial nightmare.”

As of Wednesday, Casa Bonita was only allowing ticketed guests inside for limited dinner hours in what its website called a “beta-testing” phase. It was limiting tickets to those who were on its email list.

Lunch service was listed as “coming soon” on the restaurant’s website.