Downtown spotlight: Jack McDowell, Dos Gatos door host

To know Downtown is to know Jack McDowell. Dressed most nights in dark colors, a snazzy vest and his signature skull shirt pin, McDowell stands guard in front of a Downtown treasure, Dos Gatos. Door host of this nightlife hotspot for more than three years, he’s become a Downtown icon – albeit a reluctant one – with his quick wit, style and no-nonsense work ethic. We recently chatted with McDowell to learn more about this Downtown personality.

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Jack McDowell. Photo by Miguel Emanuelli.

In a nutshell, what are your official duties as door host of Dos Gatos?
I am entrusted with setting the tone of the house – greeting and vetting patrons, checking IDs and addressing general security concerns. Our job is “Safety, Security and Limitation of Liability.”

Do you see yourself as a Downtown icon? Do people recognize you as a Downtown celebrity of sorts?
Well, er, I was unaware of an “iconic” status but humbly appreciate and give thanks to those who perceive me thusly. I don’t know about that one. Even my rampant narcissism hesitates to accept it! That being said, I have enjoyed being seen out and about and having people look at me like, “Wait. What? He actually exists away from that mythical doorway to the finest elixirs? IN DAYLIGHT?!” Or they point at me in kind greeting, exclaiming “Dos Gatos dude!” It’s pretty damn cool, actually, and I greatly appreciate the regard.

What do you love about your job at Dos Gatos?
The patrons and the family of the house. I have been involved in house or club security off and on for more than 25 years, and I have never enjoyed my customer base as much as I have here. I am also fortunate to work with the single most exemplary people possible in the business – a true family of professionals that every day brings appreciation of each other, commitment to our combined effort and dedication to the craft.

What is your day job, and how did you get started with it?
I am the senior investigator and owner of McDowell Consulting and Detective Services. I have been a professional private investigation, executive protection and security operative for almost 20 years. Much of this was in a specialized security, or bodyguard, capacity. I started out in this profession that way. Now, I am mostly in pursuit of criminal defense and personal injury case objectives for local attorneys while accommodating “unusual” challenges and working requirements. My agency’s motto is “Decisive Action with Defined Objectives.”

Where are you from originally?
I am a Jacksonville native, born of a Jacksonville-native father and a mother who came here from Soperton, Ga., when she was 3 years old. I was blessed with an appetite for knowledge and experiences that has led to many unusual adventures and a well-rounded history to draw from. Often as a young man, it led me into minor trouble, too!

What are some fun facts we might not know about you?
I joke easily and often, with a particular fondness for pranks. I have a love of books – fiction and non-fiction – and continue to draw, paint and sculpt in my spare time. I have always been a Sci-Fi geek, and enjoy science and nature. I have found that I really enjoy helping and/or training others, and I seem to orate well, given my command of the English language. While preferring to operate with proper planning and deliberate implementation, I think fast and handle pressure well, often performing best in crisis mode with loose associative thought, guided by clearly defined objectives and/or protocols. I enjoy different viewpoints, and I also enjoy a spirited, healthy debate. I believe you always learn something new from revisiting the basics with someone else – their version of the fundamentals may give you a different perspective and new insight. Finally: I like being me. I’m OK.

Jack McDowell, door host at Dos Gatos
McDowell’s popular shirt pin

Let’s talk about your Dos Gatos wardrobe – we love it! Do you have a “uniform” you always wear, and why did you choose this look?
Dos Gatos was described to me as having a “speakeasy” lounge-style decor with a reasonably “hipster-esque” crowd. Combining that with a more professional style consideration – maintaining the idea of “keeping it classy” – resulted in the current standard of dress for our door hosts. The colors I tend to stick with are darker, more earth tones with lots of black. Easier to blend with the shadows and such! I get a lot of questions about the pin I always wear upon my breast. It is a skull with a craftsman’s mark on the forehead, with a rose clenched in its teeth. To me, it symbolizes the higher aspirations of the Bouncers Spirit: possibly dangerous but always diplomatic and professional of his craft; speak kindly and well; but act firmly and resolutely with unwavering dedication to craft.

You have some great jokes and one-liners that people at the Dos Gatos door line love. What’s your favorite part about hanging out with the Downtown nightlife crowd?
Downtown’s nightlife crowd has the broadest spectrum of cultural, professional and social diversity, as well as the deepest range of ages and ideas that are all interacting, working, playing and cohabitating harmoniously (usually) to enjoy life on their own terms. You can usually find a representative example of something different, or a different perspective, that enjoys engaging and participating with the “Downtown vibe,” the people that come here and/or live here to create a community.

McDowell with Margaret Cho
McDowell with comedian Margaret Cho

Any cool stories to share about working at Dos Gatos? i.e. meeting celebrities, funny bar stories, etc.
I may have inadvertently once frightened Margaret Cho when I stepped up and asked to be photographed with her. You can see it in the photo. The poor lady never saw me until I spoke up, standing right next to her at the door to her transport. I was wearing all black, and I forget my voice can be somewhat unsettling when heard in the dark like that. Beyond that, most stories are confined to confidence by virtue of “Rule No. 1.” Ask me at the door, and I’ll tell you what that is. (Wink.)

What do you love most about Downtown Jacksonville, and why did you pick to work at Dos?
That harmonious mix of different people, all enjoying the collective pursuit of a genuinely good time. It was brought to my attention that Dos Gatos was in need of a professional at the door by a mutual friend. I met with owner Jason Albertelli at Bold Bean in Riverside, where he basically interviewed me and got to know me to see if I was a “fit” with the DG family. I was originally only going to be there for six months or so, as I had other pursuits. But I fell in love with the place, the people I am blessed to work with and the patrons that are second to none. So, here I am, three years later and still going. I really love this place – you will, too!

Of course, we have to ask this: what is your favorite Dos Gatos cocktail?
While I am a confirmed Scotch drinker with a distinct appreciation for the Auchentoshan 12 year (neat with a splash of water, naturally), my favorite cocktail at DG is The Edinburgh, hands down.

Anything else to add?
Nope. I think I’ll keep the rest for you to enjoy discovering for yourselves, both about Dos Gatos and myself. Again, Rule No. 1 applies! Come see us.


For more information on Dos Gatos, visit its website and like it on Facebook. To learn about all the nightlife fun Downtown has to offer, visit Downtown Vision, Inc.’s nightlife directory and events calendar.