Reps. Willner & DuPlessis file a bill creating training and background checks for bouncers


FRANKFORT – Exactly one year after a constituent of hers died following an altercation at Nowhere Bar in Louisville, state Rep. Lisa Willner filed legislation today that would require bouncers to meet minimum criteria before being hired and to be subject to criminal background checks by the businesses employing them.  Her bill, which state Rep. Jim DuPlessis is co-sponsoring, would be known as “Christopher’s Law,” in honor of her constituent, Christopher McKinney.

        “What happened to Christopher last January 5th was truly tragic, and it highlighted some glaring gaps in the law,” said Rep. Willner, a Democrat who represents the 35th House District in Jefferson County.  “I have been working with Christopher’s family since April to find the best ways to close those gaps, with the goal of making these establishments both safer and more accountable.  I’m proud this approach has gained bipartisan support, too, with my colleague Rep. Jim DuPlessis joining as primary co-sponsor.”

        Nicholas Clark, Christopher’s husband of just three months, said Christopher did not deserve “the type of treatment or force that was imposed upon him that tragic night.  There was no evidence he was a threat, and he was trying to leave.”  Nearly three months after the altercation, the Commonwealth Attorney’s office chose not to bring charges against the bouncer

        Rep. Willner’s legislation, House Bill 173, would require bars to conduct criminal background ground checks for the bouncers they hire and to have the state’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control develop and enforce regulations that bouncers and bars alike would have to follow.  That includes having the department develop guidelines for bouncer-training programs bouncers would enroll in.

Her bill would ban bouncers from drinking alcohol while on duty or to be under the influence of that or any illegal substance.  It also would make clear that any off-duty law enforcement officer working as a bouncer is a private employee during those hours and that law enforcement agencies are not liable for the officer’s actions in that role.  The bouncer will also not be allowed, while working at the bar, to use any supplies, uniforms or other insignia tied to his or her law enforcement agency.

        Rep. Willner’s bill would not apply to those working as servers at a bar or as security guards hired at such venues as theaters, stadiums and arenas.

        It will be considered during the 2021 legislative session, which began today and will conclude in the latter part of March.