Jason Albertelli. A Cat from Dos Gatos

November 10, 2010 20 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Jason Albertelli is a Jacksonville native who has rewritten the book on downtown nightlife. His wildly successful cocktail lounge, Dos Gatos, has upped the standard for sophistication and attention to detail for downtown's bar scene and the city as a whole. As the lounge approaches its one year anniversary, MetroJacksonville correspondent David Paulk sat down with Jason one evening to tap into the mind behind Dos Gatos' success.

Jason was born and raised in Jacksonville but has spent the last decade in big cities like New York City and Los Angeles. This big city experience has given Jason some insights on how to design and create an environment that really creates an experience for guests. Jason’s appearance – both arms, from fingertip to shoulder, are covered in tattoos - blends well with the rock and roll atmosphere of his bar.

Despite Jason's tough exterior, he couldn’t be a friendlier or approachable guy. Though his tattoos don't scream 9-5 desk job, Jason used to work in publishing, working at a dot com startup in early 2000 when the tech market crashed. The company downsized after the crash, and Jason returned to his passion of bartending. From there he’s never looked back.

I met with Jason on a Tuesday night at Dos Gatos, located on East Forsyth street downtown. A few people were taking the last sips of their post-work happy hour drinks, while others were getting their evening started with one of the many Dos Gatos' signature cocktails. As Jason was getting all of the administrative items squared away for the night, I took the opportunity to the Redneck Fizz, a combination of Sangria and bourbon which is as delicious as it is deadly. After Jason had taken care of the night's chores, he sat down and told me his story.

What led to you moving back to Jacksonville and opening Dos Gatos?

‘I'd been living out in LA for about 6 or seven years running multiple venues.

When I left I was overseeing the operation of 4 bars in LA and one in San
Francisco. And I'm from here so when my wife and I would fly back to
Jacksonville, we just always felt like there wasn't a bar for us. You know,
Jacksonville has got a lot of great night clubs and great sports bars but there
wasn't a great cocktail lounge here. Cocktail culture is really really big on the
west coast and in New York and it just hadn't hit here. People don't really
realize what an art it is. Good bar-tending is an art form. People just settle on
so little when they don't know what's out there, so we wanted to bring that to

Did you always plan to open downtown, or what caused you to make that decision?

‘When we first moved back here and went out downtown, just walking down
the streets I knew downtown is where it had to be. There's so much potential.
I think for a lot of people who were born in Jacksonville and move away and
come back, when you see Jacksonville from a distance you see how much
potential Jacksonville has. There are so many assets. All these vacant buildings
downtown just seemed like huge assets that weren't being utilized. Finding this
building and see the possibilities with this space made it be a no brainer being
across from the Florida Theatre.’

Has the response to Dos Gatos met your expectations?

‘I didn't really have expectations. I said to myself, ‘I've put together a business
plan where this is the sales expectation, this is the amount of business I hope
we'll do. On slow nights I'll work, my wife will work, and we'll work seven
nights a week if we have to.’ Business has been better than expected. The
reaction to the bar has been incredible. I think it has helped get some of the
other bar owners to kind of raise their game a little bit. When everybody does
that, the guest wins. I really built a bar for me to go to... And I figured everybody
else would want to go to one too. You can see that the other bars are starting
to pick up their game and that's awesome.’

What is next for you and for Dos Gatos?

‘The goal is to open more bars. I'm like AT&T, "more bars in more places" that’s
kind of my philosophy. I'd like to do another bar in Jacksonville. I've looked at
the beach. I’m not sure where I would right now. I think if the right place came
along I'd do something else. We've got some plans in store for this building that
we're going to do. Nothing I can really talk about right now. We talk about it at
length often. I'd like to be able to announce it on our 1 year date, but I'm not
sure. Sometime next year there will be some sort of action over here for sure,
if not sooner. I've got to sit down and decide what's the best for downtown,
what's going to be best for the area, and ultimately best for Dos Gatos.’

What do you think of downtown's future? What needs to happen for downtown to be

‘I wouldn't have moved back here if I didn't see so much potential in this town.
I say this all the time. Jacksonville is very much like San Diego. We've got a
professional sports team, we've got great beaches, we've got a great looking
downtown, but we need to realize that. They need to realize the positive
aspects of all the things that are around them and support local. Support locally
grown businesses. There's really so much positive going on, and it's so easy for
people to sit back and nay-say everything to death. But I see things positively
and I'd like to see more growth, and I hope I'm right.’

Dos Gatos will be celebrating its one year Anniversary on November 13th – a great time to
check out the bar and experience its cocktail culture (try a Red Dawn – a personal favorite – or
a Stolen Fish) and great atmosphere. The finishing touches are being put on the back room
at Dos Gatos, including the addition of a great new fireplace. Keep an eye out for Jason’s next
big venture sometime in the next year. No matter what he decides to do next, you can bet it’s
going to be change the face of Jacksonville nightlife once again.

David Paulk, November 2010