New York

NYC Pizza Festival Agrees to Refund All Tickets Amid Growing Outrage, State Attorney General Probe

Customers had complained they shelled out $75 for tickets to get cold pizza "slivers" in a "shady" Brooklyn parking lot

What to Know

  • Pizza-lovers who had traveled from as far as Washington, D.C., fumed on social media after the New York City Pizza Festival on Saturday
  • Attendees complained that they got "cold and awful" and small pizza slices at the Bushwick, Brooklyn, food festival
  • The New York attorney general's office said it opened an inquiry into the festival on Monday

Organizers for the New York City Pizza festival have agreed to refund all tickets after customer gripes over shelling out $75 for tickets to get cold pizza "slivers" in a "shady" Brooklyn parking lot prompted the state attorney general's office to launch a formal investigation into the fracas.

"After careful deliberation, and much back and forth about our customer's best interest, we have agreed on REFUNDING ALL TICKETS from the pizza and burger festivals," according to a Wednesday Facebook post on the New York City Pizza festival's event page. "Thanks for your patience in helping us get to the bottom of this. We haven't made any direct statement to the press because resolving customer concerns was a priority and focusing on that first has been more important to us at this time."

The New York City Pizza Festival, which took place in a parking lot in Bushwick Saturday, was promoted as a "day long celebration of the dough, cheese, tasty sauces and delicious toppings," according to Gothamist, but people instead got "cold and awful" pizza that were "smaller than a sample size," as one person complained on Facebook. 

"It was like the people from Fyre Festival decided to throw a pizza party," attendee Connell Burke told Gothamist, referring to the heavily promoted, disastrous music festival that landed its promoter in jail in New York earlier this summer.  

Video from the event shows lines around the block of a near-empty parking lot. An attendee said on Facebook there were just three tents serving up slices of pizza "smaller than my palm."  

"This is bull----!" The fact that my friend and I spent 55 dollars each for such a s----- event like this is unbelievable!" one woman complained on the event's Facebook page. "All we got was warm red wine that tasted like a--." 

The Pizza Festival event page posted during the event: "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 make-up tasting will be announced shortly. Sincere apologies. Please do not come for the rest of the night's tastings."

The apology didn't appease attendees. 

"Make-up tasting? Shut the ---- up. Give us our money back, how's that for a make up?" one woman retorted

Furious customers quickly coalesced on Facebook, creating their own group, "Pizza Festival Scam Victims." 

"This was a rotten scam, they promoted this as a pizza festival and a hamburger festival," one person said in a post. "People who arrived early said there were about 5 pies cut into micro slices of really bad pizza. There were no hamburgers! Clearly this is a scam and the organizers should be held accountable." 

The complaints got the attention of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office, which opened an investigation into the event on Monday.

A spokesman for the office said they were "concerned about the online complaints" they saw following the event and asked attendees to submit complaints on the Schneiderman's website

It wasn't immediately clear if the attorney general's investigation would continue following organizers' decision to refund the tickets.

The festival organizer, Ishmael Osekre, didn't respond to Gothamist's requests for comment.

The Facebook post Wednesday said, "Few newspapers have said a lot without facts, quotes, or context. We respect their right to make claims, sometimes as clickbaits, but we also believe in the hardworking pizzerias in Brooklyn and we did not feel it was right to simply blame them or supporting partners for issues that impacted the event negatively. We wanted to resolve these issues as a team, in order to ensure that all concerns were fairly and properly addressed."

Earlier in the week, though, Osekre, through the Facebook event page, blamed event producer Hangry Garden for delaying the start of the event. 

But Hangry Garden co-founder Jeremy Asgari told Gothamist his own company had been misled by Osekre. He said Hangry Garden had been hired to provide furniture and games at the pizza festival, but red flags started popping up in the weeks leading up to the event. On the day of the event, festival organizers still hadn't paid Hangry Garden -- and that's when the event producers pulled out.

"We couldn't be part of it, of course, because we're not going to do an event for free. We started getting the feeling that this wasn't the type of event they promised," Asgari told Gothamist. "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."

Osekre was also behind a food festival last year that was widely panned as a scam, according to Gothamist.

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