Durham, N.C. — Some Duke University students have reported a Durham bar popular with students to local officials, saying the bar isn’t enforcing masks, distancing or other pandemic-related restrictions.
Shooters II, on West Morgan Street, is part of the social scene at Duke, but it’s also been the focus of several complaints dating to last summer. In one recent complaint, Duke Student Government asked the city to crack down on the club and enforce occupancy limits and the statewide mask mandate.
“We knew we had four weeks left. We just wanted to make sure we could finish the semester strong and keep Duke, and especially the Durham community, healthy,” DSG President Tommy Hessel said Thursday. “We want to see students still able to have a somewhat normal semester but very much following the public health guidelines.”
Some students shared with WRAL News videos taken inside Shooters that show crowds of unmasked young adults talking and dancing.
“It looked just like it was before the pandemic. There were hundreds of students in there, unmasked, not socially distancing,” said one Duke student who visited Shooters on April 3. “People were having trouble keeping their balance because they were so packed together.”
Under statewide restrictions, bars are limited to 50 percent capacity.
The student, who asked not to be named,” called the crowded scene “viscerally upsetting.”
“You are posing a public health threat to Duke and the Durham community,” the student said. “There should be a sense of solidarity that, as a country, we are going through a pandemic, a historic moment, and the least you can do is not go to a party with hundreds of unmasked people.”
Shooters owner Kim Cates denied the allegations the bar was violating capacity limits and mask requirements.
“That’s not true. That’s not true,” Cates said. “If people are drinking, they don’t have to wear their masks.”
Shooters hasn’t been charged with any violations of the restrictions, she said.
In fact, as of last check, Durham police hadn’t cited any businesses during the pandemic. City officials try to cajole businesses into compliance, but Assistant City Attorney Anna Davis said she has turned the Shooters case over to police, given that previous complaints have been lodged against the bar.
A police officer checked on Shooters last weekend, Davis said. Police didn’t respond to questions from WRAL as to whether the bar was cited.
Bob Ekstrand, an attorney for Shooters, said in a statement that Cates “has zealously protected the Duke students” for 22 years, including during the pandemic. The safety protocols at the bar “go far beyond what local and state rules require,” he said, noting the bar often limits capacity to 40 percent.
Hessel and the other Duke student said that position isn’t backed up by the video evidence.
“It’s kind of sad to see it’s a potential for just kind of spreading COVID around,” Hessel said. “It’s just a very packed, crowded venue.”