Zora Bar & Rooftop Owner Found Guilty of Serving Minors
Edwin Allen III, the owner of Zora Bar & Rooftop, was found guilty of serving minors after 9 p.m. at his Ingersoll Avenue nightclub. The jury’s verdict is a significant development in the ongoing legal battle between Allen and the city of Des Moines.
Allen was ordered to pay a $400 fine, which is higher than the minimum penalty of $105 but falls short of the maximum of $800. Assistant City Attorney Luke Desmet said that Allen had attempted to deflect blame away from himself throughout the proceedings.
Zora Bar & Rooftop has been on sale since March, and it recently ceased operations due to pressure from both city and state authorities. Allen had voiced concerns about the city’s actions, alleging reckless behavior in its attempt to label Zora as a public nuisance.
The legal dispute began when the city filed a case against Allen in July, citing incidents of violence and disruptive behavior at the establishment. In response, Allen counterclaimed, asserting that he was denied due process before the lawsuit was filed against him. His counterclaim further demanded damages amounting to $10 million.
Allen has now enlisted the services of attorney David Leitner, despite Leitner’s pending disbarment recommendation for misconduct in other cases. Earlier this month, Allen faced disappointment when his request to designate Zora as a bar by the city’s Zoning Board of Adjustment was denied. This decision came after a state audit revealed that Zora was in violation of revenue distribution requirements for restaurants.
Zora Bar & Rooftop is an elaborate three-story nightclub that was established in 2021 at the intersection of Ingersoll and Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway. The venue, boasting a patio, two rooftop levels, and a show kitchen, reportedly cost $5 million to construct. Despite its upscale features, the establishment has faced criticism on social media due to incidents of violence, including a fatal shooting.
Allen has stated that he had sought assistance from Des Moines police to patrol the area around his bar and had invested in additional surveillance cameras and security personnel. He maintained that noise violations were minimal and that many police calls were unrelated to his establishment.
The jury’s verdict is a significant setback for Allen, and it remains to be seen how the legal battle between him and the city of Des Moines will play out.