The New York Attorney General’s office is looking into producers of last weekend’s New York Pizza Festival – which attendees are calling a complete “scam.” The NYAG has asked ticket buyers for last Saturday’s (Sept. 9) festival to submit complaints about the event that left them standing in hour-long lines to receive small, bland slices of pizza.
The event was slated as “a day long celebration of the dough, cheese, tasty sauces and delicious toppings” that would offer “an eclectic tasting of the best pizza in NYC.” The event was set for 3pm-10pm in Brooklyn, but pizza lovers arrived to find a practically empty parking lot that had no places for people to sit, scarce food and drinks, and none of the extra entertainment promised.
Ticket prices ranged from $20 to $75 and were available on Eventbrite and Goldstar with each site displaying different offers and activities such as games and music. The festival’s Eventbrite page did not mention any specific vendors and the same organizers had promised a hamburger festival on the same day at the same location.
Almost two hours after the event began, the event producers announced a shortage of supplies on their Facebook page. The message read: “Hi guys, we’ve been hit by an incredible amount of delays in pizza delivery. Fresh, diverse, and delicious pizza was supposed to be delivered every 30 minutes. A makeup tasting will be announced shortly. Sincere apologies. Please do not come for the rest of the night’s tastings. Apologies for the inconvenience! “
One attendee told The Gothamist that the festival was handing out miniature slices of cold pizzas out of delivery boxes. The slivers were being handed out on cake-sized paper plates, according to festival-goer Connell Burke, who also stated on Facebook it “was like the people from Fyre Festival decided to throw a pizza party.”
Burke has already started a separate Facebook community called Pizza Festival Scam Victims where those out the $20-$75 can come together to voice complaints, sign up for to be part of a lawsuit, and get instructions on how to file complaints with New York’s Department of Consumer Affairs. The complaints have already caught the attention of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office, which has already opened an investigation into the event and organizer Ishmael Osekre. A spokesperson for the NYAG’s office told NBC New York they were concerned about the complaints and asked attendees to continue filing complaints.
Osekre, who was also responsible for last year’s failed African Food Festival, blamed the shambled event on event producer Hangry Garden. The festival claimed that Hangry Garden had delayed delivery by one hour when they were supposed to supply fresh pizza every 30 minutes. Hangry Garden is an event production company that rents space, chairs, tables, and games and was touted as a partner just weeks before the festival.
Hangry Garden’s co-founder Jeremy Asgari told the Gothamist that the claims were false and that his company was hired to rent the space and furniture, but, as of the Friday prior to the event, had not paid for their services.
Asgari said, “As we got closer to the event, things just didn’t add up right. They didn’t pay us the fee that we were supposed to get, they weren’t honoring their deal with us.” He added: “We showed up and they didn’t have the food vendors, they didn’t have anything. I asked them where the vendors were and he said, ‘We had trouble finding them so we’re ordering pizza to the venue.’ I was like are you kidding me? They were supposed to have 30-plus vendors, this is a nightmare.”
On Saturday, Hangry Garden posted the following message on Facebook.
The NYAG’s office has been unable to reach Osekre so far, but Goldstar and Eventbrite have issued refunds to ticket buyers. Eventbrite released the following statement:
We reviewed both the New York Pizza Festival and New York Burger Festival and issued full refunds today to all attendees that purchased their ticket(s) through Eventbrite. There is no action necessary on their end and they can expect to see the refund on their credit/debit card statement within the next 7 business days. We have also taken appropriate action to ensure this event creator is no longer permitted to use Eventbrite for future events.
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