While an opening date is still unknown, some of the staff at Casa Bonita are working to improve communication across the team. On Thursday, 29 employees were honored at a ceremony after they completed courses to start learning a new language.
“Every Tuesday and Thursday, we’ve been coming here to the action center taking Spanish classes and English classes, which has been an amazing opportunity,” said Beau Gentry, a diver at Casa Bonita. “Three years in high school and I didn’t remember much. But I also wanted to converse and become a closer-knit family with Casa Bonita, and I knew this would help me converse with all the other employees as well.”
Gentry was part of 14 English speakers who learned Spanish. Another 15 employees who predominately speak Spanish learned English.
“I don’t hear of any company that does this. I think it’s the first company to do this, to take care of the workers,” said Alex Perez, a 29-year veteran of Casa Bonita, who took English classes.
“One of the barriers we have is the language. So front of the house, back of the house, they don’t communicate,” said Dana Rodriguez, the executive chef at Casa Bonita.
Rodriguez said she appreciated that the learning wasn’t one-sided and helped create camaraderie among the staff.
“I was really impressed with the English speakers because you feel like you’re in your comfort zone. You feel like you’re in your country. You don’t need to learn the language. But if they want to be part of Casa Bonita, an iconic place, they feel like they should do it,” She said. “That means a lot in our culture. It’s respect. It’s love.”
Since new owners, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, bought the building, they’ve been paying a few dozen staff members to stay on. Most are spending their, Habitat for Humanity and other non-profits. The building is undergoing a multi-million-dollar renovation. Supply chain issues are holding up work and delaying even an announcement of when the iconic entertainment venue could reopen.
Workers like Gentry say it’s been a time for personal growth, especially with picking up another language.
“It’s difficult learning a new language, so we’d all see each other struggling, but each week you see people learning more and more being able to speak more confidently,” he said. “This opportunity, not only can it help me with Casa Bonita, but it can also help me throughout life.”