He lived just a four-minute walk from the malt shop where he worked and six minutes from the bar he often visited. In both places, Jason Foster, 34, of Chaska, was everyone's best friend.

At Tommy's Malt Shop on the edge of downtown near the Minnesota River, owner Brett Geselle thought it strange when he heard Foster hadn't shown for work Friday. His heart sank then, he said, when he drove by Kelley's Bar and he saw the police tape.

About 2 a.m. Friday, police said, Foster, a Kelley's regular known to friends by his last name, was fatally stabbed at the bar during a disturbance that resulted in three men being arrested -- one on suspicion of second-degree murder and the others for first-degree riot.

In an afternoon news release offering few details about the fight, police also described Kelley's Bar as "a source of concern for the police department." The release said police and city officials already had planned to meet with the bar's owner next week to discuss the concerns and the status of its liquor license renewal.

That meeting will go ahead, as planned, next Tuesday. Police said the investigation into Friday's disturbance also is continuing and that more charges were possible. The incident itself was described in the news release only as a fight outside Kelley's Bar.

Kelley Sharp, the bar's owner, said the stabbing occurred in the parking lot and involved three strangers who came in and "were causing fights" with the bar's regulars. The bartender kicked out the three men, he said. Foster then was fatally stabbed. Foster, he said, was a "good patron" who helped protect the bar when necessary.

Sharp, who was not at the bar during the incident, discussed it before the police statement about the city's issues with Kelley's was released. He could not be reached later to comment.

Foster's death was the second serious crime to occur there in recent weeks. A 46-year-old woman was arrested and charged last month with robbing the bar while armed.

Forever upbeat

About noon Friday, while investigators worked behind police tape at Kelley's, Dan Wynn, 24, of Chaska, joined about 20 of Foster's friends on the outdoor deck of Cy's Bar & Grill next door. He remembered Foster as "the kind of guy who wouldn't shake your hand, he'd give you a hug instead," he said. "He was a big teddy bear."

At 2nd Street E. and Walnut Street N., on the other side of City Square Park from Kelley's Bar, Foster had a downtown apartment that his friends at the malt shop helped furnish. He walked everywhere, Wynn said, and he seemed to like the idea of living so near to both Tommy's and Kelley's.

"A simple man," Wynn said. "Loved life. Great guy."

At Tommy's, where he was a cook, Foster was known for being "even keel," always positive, Geselle said.

Garrett Pforr, a co-worker, recalled Foster's goodbyes, a backwards peace-sign-styled salute with two fingers raised, and the words, "Deuces, bro."

"It caught on," Pforr said. "Everyone says, 'Deuces.' "

Foster had been under court supervision in Carver County after he pleaded guilty last year to a charge of first-degree sale of drugs.

Anthony Lonetree • 612-673-4109 Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482