PHOENIX — The Arizona bar and restaurant communities are mourning the death of Bobby Kramer, a well-known and respected mixologist, who died early Wednesday after his vehicle was struck by a wrong-way driver.
Kramer, 31, was the food and beverage director and part of the founding leadership team at The Brickyard Downtown and The Hidden House, two restaurants in downtown Chandler.
Outside of work, he was a father and husband who now leaves behind a wife and young son. He also served eight years as a corpsman with the U.S. Navy, according to a brief statement distributed by Chelsea Sutton, the marketing manager for both restaurants.
Sutton declined an interview. She said the family was also not ready to talk and requested privacy.
Fellow bartenders, brewers, business owners, and colleagues in the industry shared tributes to Kramer on their social media pages Wednesday evening as news of his death was shared.
"We lost a friend last night, and we are stunned," wrote Justin Evans, co-owner of The Sleepy Whale, a neighborhood hangout in Chandler, in a post on Instagram "[Bobby Kramer] is and always will be a rock in our industry and community. He's one of the few people we've met that would bring smiles to our faces as soon as we saw him. Every single time."
Evans created a fundraiser on Facebook to support Kramer's family. As of Thursday afternoon, more than $38,000 had been raised.
"Bobby's smile alone is enough to miss forever," read a comment from Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. "His charm was...he was himself."
"We're absolutely crushed. One of the sweetest guys we've ever known," wrote Pedal Haus Brewery.
According to a provided bio, after his military service, Kramer became "fascinated with chemistry, alchemy, and the science of flavor" that spurred his interest in cocktails.
He was reportedly involved in the U.S. Bartenders Guild and, according to his LinkedIn profile, was the president of the Phoenix chapter. In his early years, he worked at Blue Hound Kitchen and Cocktails, Virtu Honest Craft, and at a cafe in Cave Creek.
"Bobby was a light," said Kirti Dwivedi, who considered Kramer to be a friend and knew him through the industry. "He definitely brought positivity and joy to everything he did."
"He has been a friend and a mentor to many of us, just through the way he lived his life, as well as deliberately helping...the younger generation of bartenders," she said.
The Arizona Department of Public Safety said dispatchers received multiple reports of a wrong-way driver on Interstate 10 near Ray Road around 12:30 a.m. Wednesday, and then about a subsequent crash west of Chandler Blvd.
DPS said a 25-year-old woman, suspected of being impaired at the time, was driving eastbound in the westbound lanes and collided with Kramer's vehicle. He died at the scene, DPS said.
The woman, who has not been identified, was taken to the hospital with serious, non-life-threatening injuries, DPS said. She was listed in the same condition on Thursday.
Dwivedi added that Kramer loved his family.
"The way he spoke about his wife and son, I mean you could feel the pride and the love that he felt for them," she said. "To see that that's just gone is very hard to wrap our heads and our hearts around."
A scholarship fund for Kramer's son, Arthur, was in the process of being established and that details on that would be posted to The Brickyard's website in the next day or so, Sutton said.
In its own Facebook post, The Brickyard said Wednesday that it would remain closed until further notice.