South Park Creators' Eatery Outlaws Tipping

At Colorado's Casa Bonita, servers and bartenders will instead make $30 an hour
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 30, 2023 2:02 PM CDT
South Park Creators Ditch Tips at Their Restaurant
This Aug. 13, 2021, photo shows Casa Bonita in Lakewood, Colorado.   (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

In September 2021, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, creators of the animated sitcom South Park, purchased Casa Bonita, a sprawling 52,000-square-foot Mexican restaurant in Lakewood, Colorado, that was featured in one of the show's episodes. The pair shuttered the eatery, which had declared bankruptcy before they purchased it, for a $40 million renovation. On June 23, Casa Bonita once again opened its doors to the public, but with one big change that the Denver Post notes goes "against [a] service industry norm": Tips are off the menu.

That means servers and bartenders won't get any gratuities, but they will see their pay raised to a flat rate of $30 per hour—originally set to be around $14 to $15 per hour when tips were still included. "We found guests simply weren't tipping" during the soft opening period, management says in a statement to the Post of the change. "We believe that's due to our unconventional, prepay ticketing system," which has patrons buy their $40 tickets for a meal ($25 for kids 3 to 12, and free for those under 3) ahead of time.

In addition to providing a "higher-than-average, dependable wage" for its employees, the company notes, the shift "also benefits our guests, who can enjoy Casa Bonita without incurring unexpected costs." Per the state's Department of Labor, minimum wage in Colorado is $13.65 per hour, reports Insider. Indeed, a Post reporter who visited the restaurant after its reopening wasn't able to add a gratuity to their drink tab; there was no space on the receipt to write in a tip amount.

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One employee tells Axios Denver that staffers were reportedly called in to a meeting not long before the reopening, presented with new contracts on the revised payment setup, and told they had one day to sign it or resign. Although the new pay scheme will likely benefit workers on slower days, they could see a total loss of perhaps "hundreds of dollars per shift" during busier times, per Axios' calculations. The restaurant's statement notes 93 out of 256 staffers were affected by the change. The New York Times has interviews with Stone and Parker and more info on Casa Bonita's renovation and their plans for the place, which includes indoor cliff divers and was recently dubbed the "Disneyland of Mexican restaurants." (More tipping stories.)

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