"He was superfunny. He was full of conviction. He was so talented."
Three months ago, on the afternoon of Monday, June 23, 2014, Nicole Salgar lost her 29-year-old brother, Louis, a well-known Miami punk musician and bartender, when he was fatally shot in his own home by an intruder who'd randomly decided to rob 8551 NE Eighth Court in search of money for food and drugs.
But instead of cash, the burglar found a gun. And tragically, Louis returned to his residence before the thief had left. There was a confrontation. Salgar was wounded. And he died. Two and a half weeks later, a 51-year-old convicted felon named Raul Reinosa was arrested for the murder.
In the wake of Louis' killing, his family, friends, and acquaintances have banded together to remember and honor their lost son, brother, and pal.
There's been a tribute show at Churchill's Pub. Local non-profit Guitars Over Guns created the annual Louis Salgar Award. And next Sunday, September 21, Gramps, the musician and bartender's former workplace, will host the first benefit for a new scholarship initiative, the Louis Salgar Fund, launched by his sister, a New York-based street artist.
"When most people talk about Louis, they mention his laugh and his sense of humor," Nicole says. "But he could also be serious. He felt very strongly about the things that he believed in. He rarely kept his thoughts and opinions quiet."
As Louis' sibling, she spent as much time with him as anybody. She saw him grow up. She watched him learn music. And later, she tested his mixology experiments.
"I remember when he stole my guitar, quote-unquote," Nicole laughs. "I hadn't figured out how to play it quickly enough. So he taught himself and he started playing with friends and he'd mess around in the garage. The next thing I knew, he was doing gigs at clubs and touring and getting really dedicated to making music.
"Then when he became passionate about bartending, he was like a mad scientist. He always had ten or 15 different types of syrup in his refrigerator. And every time I'd come home from New York, he'd be like, 'Try this! Try that!'"
Slinging drinks at Gramps and then the Broken Shaker, Louis became a favorite of Wynwood and Miami Beach bar-goers. He began entering cocktail competitions. And he seemed creatively satisfied in a way that his sister had never witnessed.
"I've seen Louis at his most vulnerable and I've seen him at his most confident," Nicole says. "But where he was in his life before he passed, that was definitely his peak. He was stronger than ever the last few times that I saw him."
Losing her brother has been devastating, but Nicole is determined to carry on in a way that would've made Louis proud.
"Before he passed, he was trying to talk me into moving back home," she reveals, "not only because he wanted me to be around more often, but also because he saw big changes in Miami. He felt the city had become the perfect place to start something new. He was like, 'Now's the time to come and start working on your own thing and make a difference.'
"So, with the fund, I want to give back to the Miami community. It's still a work-in-progress. But my goal is raising money and providing funds for scholarships to help young people get an education, whether it's in something like music or a trade like bartending.
"And that's why the fund and helping people in Miami has become so important to me," Nicole explains. "It's something that I know he would've wanted."
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Louis Salgar Benefit Show. With live music by Ketchy Shuby and Eel, as well as DJ sets from Radio-Active Records' Mikey Ramirez and Andi Sweetswirl, plus a raffle and silent auction. Sponsored by Bacardi and Fernet-Branca. Sunday, September 21. Gramps, 176 NW 24th St. Miami. The event begins at 2 p.m. and ends at closing time. All proceeds to benefit the Louis Salgar Fund. Ages 21 and up. Call 786-752-6693 or visit grampsbar.com.