Friday, January 23, 2015

Bill Waugh, founder of iconic Denver landmark Casa Bonita, dies at the age of 79

Bill Waugh
Bill Waugh, founder of Lakewood, Colorado's Casa Bonita Mexican restaurant, died at the age of 79 on Tuesday.

Waugh, whose restaurants also include the Taco Bueno, Casa Viva, Burger Street, and Crystal's Pizza chains,  passed away in hospice care in Dallas, according to an obituary published in the Dallas Morning News.

"He was both a businessman and an artist, and that artistic training translated into great attention to detail," said Don Williams, former CEO of Trammell Crow Co. and a friend of Waugh's, in a Dallas Morning News article. "He was a genuine entrepreneur -- but an entrepreneur with taste... And he was a man of faith who sought to encourage other people."

The Colfax Avenue landmark, with its unique entertainment options including western gunfights, Acapulco cliff divers, Black Bart's Cave, and a 500 pound gorilla name Chiquita, opened its doors on March 27, 1974, and is enjoying a resurgence of fame after being featured on the Comedy Central show "South Park."

Since its opening at 6715 W Colfax Ave., in what was once a Joslin's department store, Casa Bonita has been host to millions of guests and has become a favorite destination for both kids and adults alike. In order to build Casa Bonita, officials said they brought in some of the most renowned architects and carpenters, and constructed as they went.

The Book of Mormon, as well as other famous productions, have held cast parties in the restaurant and famous local bands such as The Fray, have held CD release parties there.

 Casa Bonita Facts:
  •  The restaurant's waterfall stands 30 feet tall, and features a 14-foot deep lagoon surrounded by rocky cliffs reminiscent of those in Acapulco Mexico. 
  • The Casa Bonita tower stands 85 feet tall and is capped with a gold leaf dome. On top of the dome stands Cuauhtémoc, the last Aztec emperor.
  • The 20-foot wide by 20-foot high fountain was shipped in pieces from Guadalajara and is surrounded on three sides by authentic Mexican décor.
  • There are three levels totaling 52,000 square feet, making the facility the largest restaurant under one roof on the North American continent.
  • In the Gold Mine section of Casa Bonita there are real gold flakes embedded in the rock formations. The Silver Mine is intentionally a few feet lower because silver is mined deeper in the ground than gold. Also, many of the wood trusses in the mine area are from actual working mines. Come check it out (but watch out for the sleeping miner).

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