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Toasty Beaver's bar and grill wins lawsuit brought by former barkeep

A Bemidji bar has won a lawsuit brought against it by a former barkeep who claimed he held a 25 percent stake in the business and property.

David Chwialkowski, in a lawsuit filed in July 2010, estimated his stake in Bemidji's Toasty Beaver Sports Bar and Grill, 114 3rd St. NW, was worth $280,000.

In an order issued last week, Judge Shari Schluchter rejected Chwialkowski's claims, ruling he and Gerald Knapp, who operates the restaurant and bar, had a partnership-at-will agreement when the two men began looking to open a business in late 2009.

In a statement from Brendan Tupa, a Minneapolis lawyer representing Toasty Beaver's, Chwialkowski never provided money, credit or labor to the sports bar.

The judge's finding of facts showed:

- In Fall 2009, Chwialkowski told Knapp he wanted to buy a bar and provided ideas regarding potential places for sale. The men later visited several bars in the Bemidji area and discussed how to open a bar and restaurant.

- The men met with Duane Ness to discuss buying the Moose Lodge property, which was for sale for $150,000. Knapp said he had $15,000 for a down payment and wanted a contract for deed. Knapp signed a contract in February 2010.

- Partnership agreements between Chwialkowski and Knapp were incomplete, including some blank areas, and exhibits presented during a trial on the lawsuit were dated before Toasty Beaver's was organized and registered with the Minnesota Secretary of State by Angela Larson, owner of the restaurant and bar. Knapp signed the contract for deed one week later.

- Construction and remodeling of the Moose Lodge began in February 2010. The following month, Knapp paid Chwialkowski $5,700 as a finder's fee. The bar opened during the 2010 summer.

"I am just glad the false allegations were proven to be false. Now, we can finally put this unfortunate matter behind us and move on to bigger and better things," Knapp said in the statement issued by his attorney.