LAKEWOOD, Colo. (CBS) – When you drive down Colfax and see a gold dome, you know you are in Colorado, but there is more than one. Of course there is Colorado State Capitol downtown, but on the west side is one that sits on top of one of Lakewood’s most well-known restaurants; Casa Bonita.

“When you say ‘Denver,’ and you are from anywhere and you’ve heard of Denver, you’ve heard of Casa Bonita,” says Denver resident Merhia Wiese.

(credit: Evan Semón Photography)

The theme restaurant which features cliff divers, mariachi bands and colorful characters has been around since the 70s. It developed a loyal following among  Coloradans, but the future of this institution is uncertain. In the midst of the pandemic the restaurant filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

That is why Diana Morales Ayala was out on the side of Colfax painting, even though she’s not an artist.

“I’m a baker,” she says.

(credit: Evan Semón Photography)

She’s taking time from her bakery to make signs for a coalition of Denver residents holding a “Save Casa Bonita” rally Saturday.

“We didn’t have enough for all of the people that showed up,” Diana says.

(credit: Evan Semón Photography)

The group wants to raise money and attract investors so they can buy the restaurant while keeping the things people love, and also bring it into the 21st century.

Improving the notoriously bad food is one of those goals.

(credit: Evan Semón Photography)

Merhia Wiese, also a member of the coalition, says, “What do you do with a restaurant that’s been around for over 40 years and nobody likes the food?”

They say they want to keep the place around for nostalgia’s sake.

“From the memories that I have and the memories that I have with my kids when they were little… I would love for that to live on,” says Diana.

They say in a sea of chains and new Denver growth it represents what Colorado once was.

(credit: Evan Semón Photography)

“It’s important because it’s original. It’s a one-of-a-kind place in the country,” says coalition member and bookstore owner Rick Griffith.

The coalition says if they can save Casa Bonita, the state and its residents will love what they can turn it into.

“Let’s get back to cliff diving!” exclaims Griffith.

LINK: Save Casa Bonita GoFundMe Page | savecasabonita.org

Michael Abeyta