Settlement in works for Kenichi ownership dispute

Settlement discussions are underway in a business dispute among two former owners and two current owners of the Kenichi sushi restaurant in Aspen, according to court documents filed last week.

Friday’s scheduled conference was vacated by District Judge Denise Lynch, who, in a written order the previous day, outlined her expectations for the case moving forward.

The judge’s “proposed case-management order” comes after former Kenichi partners Scott Brasington and Eric Durnell in July sued restaurant owners Brent Reed and Kenichi Kanada individually, as well as the Kenichi restaurant itself.

The plaintiffs contend they weren’t made whole after they each agreed to sell their one-sixth ownership interests — Durnell in October 2013, Brasington in January 2014 — to Reed and Kanada.

Brasington and Durnell became minority owners in 2008, at which time they claim they made respective business loans of $10,195 and $38,871 to the restaurant.

As part of agreements, Durnell would be reimbursed for the loan and receive an initial buyout payment of $35,000, with the remaining $40,000 to be paid in March 2015 and March 2016. Durnell also would receive 75 percent discounts and two ski passes on an annual basis until the deal was completed, the plaintiffs allege.

Likewise, Brasington’s $75,000 ownership interest would be sold through a $50,000 down payment and he would receive $2,000 in complimentary Kenichi food on an annual basis, as well as $2,000 in trades, until his business loan to the restaurant was satisfied.

By May 2017, the two former owners said they were still due a combined $74,765 along with interest.

Lynch’s order notes that the defendants deny that they were required to pay off the business loans and that they satisfied the loan agreements.

“The defendants deny that the plaintiffs ever made any loans to the business for which they are entitled to be repaid,” Lynch wrote.

A settlement, however, is “likely” to occur after the discovery phase of the lawsuit is completed, Lynch noted, citing that is what the plaintiffs have indicated.