local-group-makes-a-big-splash-to-stop-casa-bonita-sale-to-“south-park”-creators

Local group makes a big splash to stop Casa Bonita sale to “South Park” creators

Save Casa Bonita, a group of local fans of the landmark Lakewood eatery, has filed a legal motion in bankruptcy court to block a pending sale of the restaurant to the creators of “South Park” after failing to convince them to switch sides and team with them on the purchase.

Colorado natives Trey Parker and Matt Stone, through one of their companies reached an agreement with the restaurant’s owner, Summit Family Restaurants, to pay $3.1 million to make Casa Bonita’s creditors whole and purchase operating assets.

They also agreed, outside of the bankruptcy process, to pay an undisclosed amount for the restaurant’s trademarks and intellectual property, which Bob Wheaton, CEO of Summit Family Restaurants, owns in a separate company. The purchase agreement upended a bid that Save Casa Bonita had been working on to buy the restaurant from Summit after the Scottsdale, Ariz., company filed for bankruptcy protection on April 6.

“Our biggest fear isn’t that Matt and Trey will own the restaurant,” said Andrew Novick, who heads Save Casa Bonita. “Rather it is that the Zeppelins are getting in on this deal.”

Novick said Zeppelin Development, which is behind The Source Hotel and Marketplace and Zeppelin Station in the River North Art District, is the local partner that Parker and Stone are teaming with to operate Casa Bonita, a tie that neither Zeppelin Development nor the “South Park” creators have confirmed.

Kyle Zeppelin, co-president of Zeppelin Development, was on vacation and didn’t respond to interview requests by phone and email.

“They are landlords … they aren’t restauranteurs,” Novick said.

Save Casa Bonita, which Novick said has backing from local restauranteurs, is serving in that advisory role with an unnamed investor who is fronting the money for the group’s bid.

Save Casa Bonita tried unsuccessfully for months to reach Parker and Stone about joining its effort, finally making a connection earlier this month and pitching why it would be the best group to partner with, Novick said. On Friday, the group heard back — the pair would stay the course.

On Monday, Save Casa Bonita filed an objection to the sales agreement, arguing that its purchase offer of $3.5 million was $400,000 higher than what the South Park team has offered and would “maximize” the value of the restaurant.

The filing also argues that the restaurant’s landlord, BSV Lamont JCRS, exerted “undue influence” by telling Summit Family Restaurants it wouldn’t consent to an agreement reached with Save Casa Bonita to purchase the restaurant for $7.3 million, including the intellectual property.

Novick said that was because BSV knew another offer was in the works with the creators of “South Park,” also big fans who had made the restaurant an international sensation by featuring it in several episodes of the animated series.

Judge Michael E. Romero could reject the motion, decide that Save Casa Bonita has provided the better offer or put the assets up to a competitive auction. Given that Parker and Stone signed a $900 million-plus deal in August with ViacomCBS for six more seasons of South Park, as well as 14 streaming movies, Novick said he has no doubt who would win if Casa Bonita went to auction.

Save Casa Bonita is also a creditor in the case after paying off local food vendors and mariachi musicians who were owed money and it could try to convince a majority of creditors to reject the sale. But Novick concedes that is a long shot, given that the landlord, the largest creditor after unpaid rent going back to when the restaurant shut down in March 2020, is on board with the agreement.

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