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Night Watch: Shooters Waterfront Cafe, Where the Wet T-Shirt Contest Once Reigned

Night Watch is a recurring feature about bars and clubs by nightlife columnist Tara Nieuwesteeg. 

Shooters Waterfront Café
3033 NE 32nd Ave, Fort Lauderdale
Call 954-566-2855, or visit

"I thought you were really... different. That was the first thing about you that really caught my attention," he was saying. His clean sweatshirt was neatly pressed; he was good looking, dark complexioned, and had, throughout their conversation, employed many comical cartoon character voices in attempts to make her laugh. She did, but only sparsely. She was waifish, with dark hair and a pretty, angular face. An arty chick, if I'd ever seen one. 

They sat adjacent to me at the large, pine-colored bar. She didn't look particularly engaged in him; she fiddled slightly with her long, flowing scarf.
Perhaps that's what he gets for taking her on a date to Shooters Waterfront Café, home of the corrupting, cling-tastic Wet T-Shirt Contest, which still occurs once a week, if you're interested.

David, the utterly adorable bartender, insisted the place used to be a real hotspot; today, it packs in a solid 30- to 50-year-old crowd that comes for the specials. "We still get slammed every day during happy hour," David said. "but it's not like back in the '80s. Everybody has their memory of that time. You know, we'd have lines five deep of boats docked outside. All waiting to get in. It was a serious party spot." 

Shooters' main draw has always been its expansive patio area on the Intracoastal Waterway and the option of arriving by water. In more decadent days, it was Spring Break Central; today, drinkers still come by water taxi and affluent couples pull up for dinner via yacht.  Manatees and dolphins swim by all the time. 

Inside the restaurant, the breezy Florida style persists: yellow fish shimmy around inside giant fish tanks; alcohol-related posters ("Beer: It's What's for Dinner") and beach-scene pics grace the walls; big fake marlins swim across the dining area. I overheard a middle-aged New Yorker woman continually mistake Peyton for Eli Manning, and watched a white-haired gent in a studded black felt hat and fringed black leather jacket cozy up to two slender, much-younger dames. 
I got a bourbon and Coke (with Old Crow bourbon, which didn't particularly impress me), tore off a chunk of sweet Bimini bread, and took a swig of booze.

"What I mean is, I really, really like you," Cartoon Voice Guy was telling Arty Chick. "You can't often just sit and talk to someone without all the bullshit."

"Yeah, that's rare these days," she said vacantly. 
"But I feel like I can say anything to you," he continued. "I want you to know--I really, really like you." 

She smiled at him broadly, awkwardly, before calling out to the bartender: "When you get a second, can I get my check?"

Lesson learned: Shooter's isn't a place for amore. It's a place for boozing, beach culture, and still, boobies.

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