In an Instagram post Monday night, popular Durham nightclub Shooters Saloon announced it was closing “until further notice,” starting September 1, due to COVID concerns.  

“This is NOT an easy decision to make,” the post reads. “We care for ALL of you. We care for your well-being. With all that being said we hope by us doing our part and others too MAYBE we can KNOCK COVID19 out of here!”

Open on 827 W. Morgan Street for more than two decades, the Western-ish themed bar popular with Duke University students has —both before and during the pandemic—regularly brimmed with nightlife, its mechanical bull a centerpiece; pink light splashing across the floor and red solo cups scattered around the perimeter of the bar.

At times, its popularity has been an issue: according to The 9th Street Journal, Assistant City Attorney Anna Davis issued a “stern” letter to the bar regarding COVID safety compliance during the tail end of 2020; the Durham Health Department also reported safety violations at Shooters, though when law enforcement visited the establishment, they found no violations, the paper reported.  

The closure news comes as, just down the street, Duke University has experienced a spike in cases, with 304 undergraduates, 45 graduate students, and 15 employees testing positive for COVID in the past week. Duke has mandated student vaccinations and, according to university officials, none of the positive cases have resulted in hospitalization.

Still, Duke is taking the spike seriously, announcing yesterday that it is suspending group seating and indoor dining and is requiring masks to be worn both indoors and outdoors; faculty also have the option to teach remotely for the next two weeks. Though 92 percent of staff are fully vaccinated, Duke also issued an ultimatum to staff, who have until October 1 to get vaccinated. 

Throughout the pandemic, the Shooters Instagram has expressed reluctance about pandemic restrictions, with posts that say “the Governor is getting to be too much” and urging customers to vote for gubernatorial candidate Dan Forest, whose campaign frequently cites anti-mask skepticism. 

Shooters owner Kim Cates did not immediately respond to an INDY request for comment. 

Support independent local journalism. Join the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle.

Follow Arts & Culture Editor Sarah Edwards on Twitter or send an email to