It’s been 10 years since the man who tried to stop a woman from being assaulted on State Street was shot dead by a Los Angeles gangbanger, but Jovani Tovar’s memory is still a bright light for his friends and family. This Saturday, December 3, at Blush Restaurant and Tonic Nightclub, Tovar will be remembered and his short life will be celebrated in a fundraiser for the memorial fund that was established in his name as part of the Santa Barbara City College Hotel, Restaurant, and Culinary program.
To get a sense of what he was like in life and how his death has affected a vast circle of friends, we asked a few questions of Asaf Dimant, Tovar’s good friend who is now the co-owner of Blush and Tonic, and Julie Skon, Tovar’s girlfriend at the time of his death.
Tell us a little more about your friend Jovani Tovar.
Asaf Dimant: Jovani had a giant heart that loved his family and friends. He played rugby for the UCSB rugby team and was a part of a great group people that I had the pleasure of getting to know. He studied at the Santa Barbara City College Hotel, Restaurant, and Culinary Program and worked as a sous chef at Chad’s Restaurant. He was very passionate about the culinary arts and quickly became a loved member of the local bar and restaurant community.
Julie Skon: Jovani was the kind of guy that made people smile. He had a huge heart and a great sense of humor. He was a close friend to many and is missed by all who knew him.
How did his murder affect the downtown scene?
Dimant: In terms of law enforcement, it drew attention to the L.A. gang-related visitors that were coming up to Santa Barbara at that time and mobilized the police department to obstruct these visitors from returning.
As a twenty-something bartender, it affected my peers and I in a very personal way. The initial shock of losing someone you know changed to anger at the thought that such senseless violence could cause the loss of a good and valiant human being who contributed so much to the Santa Barbara community. Jovani was protecting a woman who was getting assaulted by the individual, who then turned around and shot him.
Has his memory in anyway affected the way you do business?
Dimant: I think it was a significant building block of my outlook on the hospitality and nightlife industry and the importance of providing a safe environment for our patrons. It also sparked a common bond in the bar community and motivated operators to work together alongside law enforcement to bring an end to these acts of violence.
What do you hope this fundraiser will do for his memory?
Dimant: I believe this memorial is a testament to the life that Jovani lived and the person that he was. Every year for the last decade, a close group of family and friends get together at a local restaurant in San Francisco to honor and celebrate his life. Ten years after that terrible night, over 50 of them will travel hundreds of miles to Santa Barbara and meet up with those of us that knew him and those of us that just want to support and raise a glass in toast to a great guy.
Skon: It is a special night for memories, laughs, and for a group of people to get together who’s lives were deeply affected by the loss of a close friend. Proceeds from the fundraiser portion of this event will go to a scholarship fund created under Jovani’s name for a student entering the HRC prorgam at SBCC in search of financial support. Because it is often a lack of education that causes unnecessary violence, we are hoping to create opportunities for individuals to enter school and follow their dreams.
A memorial and fundraiser will be held on Saturday, December 3, at Blush Restaurant (630 State Street) and Tonic Nightclub (634 State Street), starting at 9 p.m., for Jovani Tovar, who was killed 10 years ago in a State Street shooting. All proceeds from a special cocktail menu derived from Jovani’s favorite libations will benefit a scholarship in his name at Santa Barbara City College for students on the Hotel, Restaurant, and Culinary Program. Additional donations will also be accepted at both venues. See tonicsb.com and blushsb.com.