Most every Duke student knows Saturday nights are best ended at Shooters. But after a decade–plus reign, Shooters’ domination of the Duke social scene might be wavering.

According to Vice President of Student Affairs Larry Moneta, the owner of Shooters II Saloon Kim Cates shared with him in a phone conversation that the club saw a decline in attendance during the Fall semester. Conveniently located less than a half-mile away from East Campus, Duke students attend Shooters so regularly that they make up the majority of Shooters’ market. While upperclassmen still visit Shooters for its very particular “je ne sais quoi,” the fact that Shooters is the only 18 and up club in town makes it a prime destination for undergraduates who are not yet legally able to drink.

When we asked Moneta as to why he thinks Shooters has seen a decrease in attendance, Moneta said “No clue,” continuing with, “I’ll be curious to hear what students surmise.” 

The Chronicle took it upon itself to find an answer to his question through surveying students. 

Many upperclassmen are disenchanted. For senior Anna Bensley, the “wow” factor has just worn off for her. “With how fast our society is changing, styles and trends and everything, it would make sense that students are gravitating away from Shooters because it’s not changing. It’s always the same.” 

But upperclassmen disillusionment with Shooters is no new phenomenon. By senior year, most Duke students are legally able to drink and prefer other bars, which serve better and less-expensive drinks.

The most interesting question is why underclassmen are avoiding Shooters. Sophomores Francesca Mercer and Victoria Wang, personally, did not notice that Shooters was any less attended this year. They admit they go less than they did freshman year, but don’t know what could be causing a decrease in attendance.

Senior Niklas Sjoquist noted that for his fraternity, brothers are more frequently choosing to stay at pregames and have apartment parties instead of going to Shooters. Sjoquist hypothesized that the decrease could be related to “an over-attendance of non-Duke students and graduate students.” 

Shooters has long served as an extension of campus, where almost every face is recognizable or familiar. Duke undergraduates can mingle and meet their classmates with the social lubricant of alcohol, and outside of the stress of class and the divisions of social groups. 

Perhaps the increase in non-Duke attendance is problematic because Duke students want Shooters to remain a boozy extension of campus. Particularly because students use this club as a way to find sexual encounters. If Shooters is attended by only Duke students, everyone in the vicinity is a part of the same community, and has some ownership to each other and the Duke community. 

Psychologically, this increases the likelihood of trusting another person and consenting to sexually “risky” behavior. If a Shooters’ attendee could be a non-Duke student, suddenly dance floor make outs become a lot riskier. At the bare minimum, it could harder to get back home if your Shooters hook-up lives at an apartment far off-campus rather than another residence hall.

Among groups that work to prevent and expose sexual assault on campus as well as support its survivors, there exists an alternative hypothesis--that Duke students are opting out of Shooters because of the appropriation of women and inappropriateness of certain sexual conduct at Shooters.

“Many women have experienced men approaching them from behind to grind with them or grope them without permission,” said Jessica Van Meir, co-president of We Are Here Duke. 

These experiences of women at Shooters are not new, or necessarily unique to Shooters—women experience similar behaviors at off-campus parties too. Still, the crowded Shooters dance floor offers an anonymity that might encourage inappropriate sexual contact.

Despite these possible explanations, it’s hard to tell exactly why Shooters is seeing a drop in attendance: many hypotheses, but no unified theory or explanation for decrease in attendance. If the trend continues, it might mean that people are opting for other places to get their groove on, such as on campus apartment and dorm parties or other Durham venues. For now, though, it’s safe to say that for many Duke students Shooters will be the place to be by the end of their Saturday nights.