Man fatally injured in motorcycle crash remembered as creative bartender, ‘Renaissance man’


A 37-year-old motorcyclist who died a week after colliding with a car in downtown San Diego is being remembered as a creative force in San Diego’s hospitality industry who not only concocted his own cocktails but assisted restaurateurs with launching new projects.

Cervantes Magaña died Friday, a week after the motorcycle he was riding collided with a car driven by a 17-year-old girl at the intersection of A Street and 10th Avenue.

The June 15 crash remains under investigation and police have not yet determined which driver ran a red light, said San Diego police Sgt. Brandy Sorbie. The driver of the car, who suffered minor injuries in the crash, had three passengers in the vehicle under the age of 20.

Magaña, a native San Diegan who attended Point Loma High School, held a series of jobs as a young adult before finding his niche in the past decade in the hospitality industry. He worked as a bartender and in recent years, as a consultant who helped open bars and restaurants, influencing the decor, the menu and the cocktails.

“He knew how to create a space for people that was a beautiful experience. Every space he touched just ended up beautiful from top to bottom,” said his sister, Lainya Magaña. She said he worked at many establishments over the years, including Cache in Hillcrest, Cloak & Petal in Little Italy and most recently, Juan Tequila in the Gaslamp Quarter.

“Cervantes was eventually so much more than a bartender. His whole creativity opened up” as mixology became more of a movement, his sister said. “He was dynamic. He had a duality — a very light spirit but also a lot of complexity and depth.”

Stephen Kurpinsky, head of the local chapter of the United States Bartenders’ Guild, said Magaña was well known and respected in bartending circles. He had passionate views and was always willing to champion “the little people or the people who didn’t have the same skill set that he had.”

“He was very much about love and he was about creativity in a lot of ways, in music, obviously (with) cocktails,” Kurpinsky said. “He was one of those geeky cocktail guys — he was always looking for new ways to do things and new flavor profiles. He was very passionate about that and it was one of the things that fueled him.”

Magaña was “quite a Renaissance man,” his sister said, and prided himself on keeping in touch with friends from the music and arts community, from cycling and motorcycling circles, as well as the bartending and restaurant industry.

Many friends came to the hospital after he was injured, Lainya Magaña said, telling stories about how he helped people in need, sometimes just by being there to listen, always smiling and giving hugs. “He loved affection, loved attention,” she said. “That was him through and through.”

After he was hospitalized, his family set up a GoFundMe to help raise money to cover some of his expenses. After his death, they posted an update, saying they wanted to plan a memorial “that honors and remembers him exactly as he would have wanted.”

Twitter: @karenkucher

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