“I’ll never stop fighting for Christopher”

Widower hoping for justice in a new law after a bouncer killed his husband at a Louisville Bar

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Nearly three years after a Louisville man was knocked out and killed at Nowhere Bar on Bardstown Road in the Highlands, his widower is hoping to change Kentucky law in his honor.

Nick Clark and Christopher McKinney were married in October 2019, but only a few months later, Clark got the news his husband was brain dead and on life support at the hospital.

“It’s been almost three years since this happened,” Clark said. “But it’s still just as difficult as, you know, the following day that it happened.”

Police said an intoxicated McKinney was being led out by a Nowhere Bar employee after showing “unruly behavior” in the bar around 1 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 5. Then, there was a fight of some kind, witnesses telling police and WDRB News they saw the bouncer knock McKinney out and he didn’t get up. McKinney was removed from life-support later that day.

The Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office decided not to charge the bouncer after McKinney’s death.

McKinney’s estate filed a lawsuit against the bar and its security guards, which included off-duty Louisville Metro Police officers. The lawsuit claims that Justin Wright, a bouncer at the bar, had “anger issues,” a history of domestic violence and had assaulted patrons prior to McKinney’s death. The lawsuit was settled before it went to trial.

Clark said he feels there hasn’t been justice.

“It has taken a toll on my anxiety and my depression just because not getting any answers and not feeling heard from anybody in the city,” he said.

Clark is now looking to Kentucky lawmakers to help with passing Christopher’s Law. If passed, Christopher’s Law would require bouncers to undergo training in de-escalation tactics, interpersonal communication techniques, mental health evaluation techniques, threat mitigation, and more. It would also ban bouncers from drinking alcohol or being under the influence of any illegal substances while on the job. 

The bill does not apply to servers or security guards hired at venues such as theaters, stadiums and arenas.

The bill was pre-filed last January, on the anniversary of Christopher McKinney’s death, but was never taken up for a vote.

Rep. Lisa Willner, D-Louisville, expects to file it again on Jan. 5 and said she’s hopeful for the 2023 session because it has bi-partisan support. 

In August, Clark and his father, presented the law to lawmakers for the first time. Willner said it’s a “very promising sign” for possible passage.

In response to several deaths along the Bardstown Road corridor, Louisville Metro Council passed a resolution asking Metro Government to produce an outline of best safety practices on Bardstown Road. The guidance is not binding and is only meant to serve as a resource for bar and restaurant employees.

Clark was a part of the committee to form the resolution and said the final outcome doesn’t hold much weight, but Christopher’s Law would.

“I just want them to know that this is not an LGBTQ bill whatsoever,” Clark said. “It’s really just the betterment of safety for bar patrons, especially in an alcohol-driven environment. I mean, I feel like there needs to be some safety standards.”

Willner said there’s conversations with the Kentucky Restaurant Association and Breweries Association as they continue to tweak the language of the bill.

“I will always fight for Christopher,” Clark said.

Frankfort, Kentucky, USA with the Kentucky State Capitol at dusk.

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