DES MOINES, Iowa — A Des Moines bar owner already accused of stalking a woman, is now facing a civil lawsuit from a woman who claims he demanded sex from her as a way to “work off” her rent.
The lawsuit was filed Monday against Edwin Allen, owner of Zora Bar and Rooftop as well as Property Management Professionals, LLC. It accuses him of violating the Iowa Civil Rights Act through sex discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliation.
The petition was filed by Cyndi Collins, who asserts that in September or October of 2021 Allen and his restaurant manager at Zora came into The Ridgemont bar where she worked as a bartender. While Allen drank, the petition stated he tried to convince Collins to come work at Zora and began asking her personal questions.
He asked why she bartended and whether she owned a house. Collins told him she had two children, one with a disability, and that bartending allowed her time to take care of the kids and pay the bills.
In the petition, Collins claimed Allen told her if she worked for him he’d buy a house and set up a rent-to-own arrangement for her. Collins claims after that, Allen messaged her multiple times through Snapchat asking to get drinks. Despite declining the offer, he continued to message her.
After a message Allen sent to Collins about applying for a job as an event manager, Collins agreed to meet him at a bar to discuss the job. During the meeting, Collins claims Allen got drunk and began asking whether she’d had a “sugar daddy” and boasting that he’d been a sugar daddy to many girls because he prefers a “no strings attached” arrangement.
Collins left the bar and Allen kept calling her, when she finally answered he allegedly said he wanted to have sex with her and said, “what’s it going to take?” Collins asked him to please stop calling her.
The lawsuit petition goes on to state that Allen continued reaching out to Collins, even offering to “help her out” after he learned she was looking for a new place to live. In January of 2022, he offered to show Collins some apartments he owns, a two-bedroom for $1,000 and a three-bedroom for $1,500.
Collins expressed concern about affording the three-bedroom and said she’d take the two-bedroom, but Allen allegedly told her he’d help her out because he knew she was a single parent who had a child with a disability. Collins claims he offered to “make a deal” to only charge $1,000 for the three-bedroom apartment if she would agree to see him romantically and “give him a chance.”
Though Collins was not interested in dating Allen, the petition said she decided to take the three-bedroom.
Collins declined an invite from Allen to go for drinks in February. After that, he set a meeting to discuss the details of the deal. According to the petition, “Allen wanted to establish exactly when and how many times Cyndi needed to meet him for sex each month for her to ‘work off’ the $500 he had taken off her rent.”
Allen allegedly told Collins she needed to have sex with him once a week in exchange for the reduced rent. He also bragged about sexual experiences with other women, even showing Collins a video on his phone of a girl giving him oral sex. The petition claimed Allen told her the girl didn’t know he was recording the incident.
In March, the lawsuit says Collins used her tax refund to pay the extra rent so she would not have to have sex with Allen. And in April, she avoided Allen and was only able to pay $90 extra. According to the petition, he demanded sex or he would evict her, which would ruin her credit and rental history.
Over the next few months, Allen started eviction proceedings but allegedly told Collins she could “work off” some of the debt if she agreed to have sex with him. Allen didn’t appear at the eviction hearing in July but told Collins that he would file another termination of lease.
The lawsuit says Collins moved out of the apartment on August 3rd and that within a few weeks, her new landlord told her Allen had contacted him and claimed she had trashed her prior apartment. She doesn’t know how Allen found out about her new address.
The lawsuit seeks, among other relief, monetary compensation for damages, punitive damages, attorney fees and court costs, as well as injunctive relief that would prohibit Allen from ever managing rental housing again.
WHO 13 reached out to Edwin Allen for comment on the lawsuit and after learning the nature of the inquiry, he hung up.
Online court records show a plea deal in a separate harassment case against Allen, involving a tenant who claimed he threatened to beat her and called her a racial slur, would allow for charges in two other cases to be dismissed. In exchange for pleading guilty to an amended charge of disorderly conduct and agreeing to testify during the stalking case against prominent metro bar owner Steve McFadden, court documents stated the Polk County Attorney’s Office would recommend the court dismiss Allen’s stalking charge that relates to McFadden’s case. A harassment case involving another of Allen’s tenants would also be dismissed.
The deal was accepted by the court on February 9 and a sentencing hearing on the disorderly conduct guilty plea has been scheduled for May 25. That’s after the trial against McFadden. The judge is not required to adhere to the plea agreement and it is unclear whether any of the civil claims against Allen will affect this criminal case.