Ishmael Osekre, the organizer of Saturday’s epic New York City Pizza Festival fail, has finally spoken about the event, first through a Facebook post promising refunds and now directly with Gothamist.
“I’m not here to argue with my customers and what their experiences are,” Osekre said by phone on Wednesday morning. “What they have to say based on their reactions is something that I respect and that is the reason why I have been making sure that those concerns they have, given that they might have been scammed, making sure that all of that has been resolved. I’m not here to make a statement to contradict other people’s experience, because my point is not to escalate tension, my point is to actually deescalate it.”
Osekre reiterated that he’s been working with Eventbrite to make sure that attendees get refunds, but said he couldn’t speak to a timeline on said refunds because the ticketing service had the money, not him. (
Gothamist still has not received a comment from Eventbrite on any conversations they may or may not have had with Osekre regarding the refunds.) See update below.
In reflecting on the event itself, Osekre admits to “shortcomings” in the execution of his vision of the “day long celebration of the dough, cheese, tasty sauces and delicious toppings” that was described on the Eventbrite ticketing page.
“I think timing is a crucial thing and maybe delivery is not the most effective way to get food to a space,” Osekre said while reflecting on his vision for the event. “It’s exciting when food arrives every 30-45 minutes—and so many boxes of pizzas and it’s fresh and it’s hot and people see it and they are sharing—which is part of what we were trying to go for. The excitement and enthusiasm around that, coming from different pizzerias. But maybe that is just supplementing some other form, like the ovens being on site, something we had arranged, but unfortunately they had to pull out last minute. Little things like that.”
When pressed about details on how his arrangements fell apart, Osekre said he doesn’t want to name names and “throw anyone under the bus.” According to Osekre, deliveries had been scheduled throughout the day from Brooklyn pizzerias, but were somehow “delayed,” though he wouldn’t provide specifics about how and why they were delayed.
These assertions somewhat contradict Hangry Garden co-founder Jeremy Asgari, whose company ultimately denied services to Osekre on the day of the event because he allegedly couldn’t pay them.
“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,'” Agari told Gothamist on Monday. “I was like are you kidding me? They were supposed to have 30 plus vendors, this is a nightmare.”
Osekre said a more formal and critical assessment of what went wrong will be made via a future blog post, on a platform he declined to name.
Facebook commenters who allegedly attended the event haven’t been satisfied with Osekre’s comments up to this point.
“It took you almost 5 hours after the event started to post that no one should come. You should have known hours prior to the event if suppliers were going to not be able to deliver,” one commenter replied on Osekre’s refund promise post on Facebook. “You let it go and only came forth once enough people got upset that the Attorney General had to get involved.”
Though Osekre insists he’s planned successful events in the past—last summer’s African Food Festival backlash notwithstanding—his days of pizza partying are probably finished.
“I’m not going to be planning a pizza festival,” Osekre says. “I think a pizza festival should happen, because it’s a cool thing for the community. I think that I need to step back and work with the appropriate partners, just based on the shortcomings of this event. I already know what can be improved.”
Update: A spokesperson for Eventbrite shared with Gothamist the following statement regarding the festivals, refunds, and future events by Osekre. Emphasis ours:
On behalf of everyone at Eventbrite, we want to sincerely apologize for this poor experience. We ticket millions of events each year and go to great lengths to ensure all customers are treated fairly when something doesn’t go as planned.
Our Terms of Service specifies that organizers set and manage the refund policies for their events, however, in the rare instance that an event significantly under-delivers on what was advertised in the listing, we thoroughly investigate the reported issue(s) and work with all parties toward a timely resolution.
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.
Update 2: DNAinfo reports that Osekre has been ousted from a small role he had in Harlem’s inaugural beer festival, which is slated to take place September 30th.