Wash Park Grille owner sued by late business partner’s estate

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Wash Park Grille, at 1096 S. Gaylord St. in Denver, is seen on Wednesday, June 5, 2024. (Justin Wingerter/BusinessDen)

The owner of two Wash Park restaurants is being sued by his late business partner’s estate for not using a $1 million life insurance payment to buy out that partner’s shares.

Until the latter’s death in 2022, Jeff Estey and Greg Sauber jointly owned the Wash Park Grille at 1096 S. Gaylord St., the neighboring Agave Taco Bar and real estate near there.

“Greg and his business partner made sure everyone who ever worked at the Grille and their related businesses were family as well,” according to Sauber’s obituary.

Estey and Sauber had a succession plan, according to a May 31 lawsuit. Each of their businesses would buy life insurance policies for Estey and Sauber. Then, when one co-owner died, the other would use the insurance money to buy the deceased’s shares.

But that arrangement, according to Sauber’s estate, has not played out as they planned.

Only one of their joint companies, Wash Park Grille, took out a life insurance policy on Sauber, according to last week’s lawsuit. That policy was reportedly worth $1 million.

“This amount was not used to buy Mr. Sauber’s interest in the Wash Park Grille,” the Sauber estate now claims in its lawsuit. “What happened to these proceeds is unknown.”

Another Estey-Sauber company initially had a life insurance policy but that lapsed while Sauber was still alive, suggesting neither co-owner was diligent about making payments.

Estey made one offer to buy Sauber’s shares in Wash Park Grille in late 2022, according to the Sauber estate, but that was rejected because it did not include a valuation. Since then, Estey allegedly hasn’t bought the shares or provided financials for the popular restaurant.

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Agave Taco Bar, 2217 E. Mississippi Ave. in Denver, is seen on Wednesday, June 5, 2024. (Justin Wingerter/BusinessDen)

“Mr. Estey has provided no reasonable explanation as to why he has failed — and has outright refused — to abide by his obligations under the operating agreements. Such willful conduct is a clear violation of Mr. Estey’s obligation of good faith and fair dealing,” the lawsuit claims.

One of the Estey-Sauber ventures was a holding company for 1052 S. Gaylord St. That property sold for $2.3 million last year — $425,000 more than Estey and Sauber paid for it in 2017 — but Sauber’s estate hasn’t received any paperwork from the sale, its lawsuit said.

“Unfortunately, when a business partner passes unexpectedly, the business relationship with the heirs changes,” Estey told BusinessDen in a short email Wednesday.

“We are currently working through this, and everything is operational,” he said.

The Sauber estate wants Denver District Court Judge Jill Dorancy to order Estey to buy the Sauber shares in Wash Park Grille, Agave Taco Bar and a third company they own: 25/210 Radial LLC. The estate also wants the $1 million in life insurance money that the companies received but never spent on Sauber’s shares, plus access to the companies’ books in order to determine the full valuation of the joint holdings.

The estate is represented by attorneys Valeri Pappas and Casey Peel with the Davis & Ceriani law firm in Denver. They did not respond to offers to discuss the case this week.

P6055131 scaled

Wash Park Grille, at 1096 S. Gaylord St. in Denver, is seen on Wednesday, June 5, 2024. (Justin Wingerter/BusinessDen)

The owner of two Wash Park restaurants is being sued by his late business partner’s estate for not using a $1 million life insurance payment to buy out that partner’s shares.

Until the latter’s death in 2022, Jeff Estey and Greg Sauber jointly owned the Wash Park Grille at 1096 S. Gaylord St., the neighboring Agave Taco Bar and real estate near there.

“Greg and his business partner made sure everyone who ever worked at the Grille and their related businesses were family as well,” according to Sauber’s obituary.

Estey and Sauber had a succession plan, according to a May 31 lawsuit. Each of their businesses would buy life insurance policies for Estey and Sauber. Then, when one co-owner died, the other would use the insurance money to buy the deceased’s shares.

But that arrangement, according to Sauber’s estate, has not played out as they planned.

Only one of their joint companies, Wash Park Grille, took out a life insurance policy on Sauber, according to last week’s lawsuit. That policy was reportedly worth $1 million.

“This amount was not used to buy Mr. Sauber’s interest in the Wash Park Grille,” the Sauber estate now claims in its lawsuit. “What happened to these proceeds is unknown.”

Another Estey-Sauber company initially had a life insurance policy but that lapsed while Sauber was still alive, suggesting neither co-owner was diligent about making payments.

Estey made one offer to buy Sauber’s shares in Wash Park Grille in late 2022, according to the Sauber estate, but that was rejected because it did not include a valuation. Since then, Estey allegedly hasn’t bought the shares or provided financials for the popular restaurant.

P6055139 scaled

Agave Taco Bar, 2217 E. Mississippi Ave. in Denver, is seen on Wednesday, June 5, 2024. (Justin Wingerter/BusinessDen)

“Mr. Estey has provided no reasonable explanation as to why he has failed — and has outright refused — to abide by his obligations under the operating agreements. Such willful conduct is a clear violation of Mr. Estey’s obligation of good faith and fair dealing,” the lawsuit claims.

One of the Estey-Sauber ventures was a holding company for 1052 S. Gaylord St. That property sold for $2.3 million last year — $425,000 more than Estey and Sauber paid for it in 2017 — but Sauber’s estate hasn’t received any paperwork from the sale, its lawsuit said.

“Unfortunately, when a business partner passes unexpectedly, the business relationship with the heirs changes,” Estey told BusinessDen in a short email Wednesday.

“We are currently working through this, and everything is operational,” he said.

The Sauber estate wants Denver District Court Judge Jill Dorancy to order Estey to buy the Sauber shares in Wash Park Grille, Agave Taco Bar and a third company they own: 25/210 Radial LLC. The estate also wants the $1 million in life insurance money that the companies received but never spent on Sauber’s shares, plus access to the companies’ books in order to determine the full valuation of the joint holdings.

The estate is represented by attorneys Valeri Pappas and Casey Peel with the Davis & Ceriani law firm in Denver. They did not respond to offers to discuss the case this week.

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