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Organizer of Ill-Fated Pizza Fest Forced Out of Harlem Beer Event

By Gustavo Solis | September 13, 2017 2:28pm
 An organizer of Bushwick's infamous pizza festival has been fired from a limited role in Harlem's first ever beer festival.
An organizer of Bushwick's infamous pizza festival has been fired from a limited role in Harlem's first ever beer festival.
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HARLEM — The organizer of Bushwick's ill-fated pizza festival has been forced out from a limited role in Harlem's inaugural beer festival.

Ishmael Osekre — founder of Afropolitan Insights and the organizer behind pizza and beer festivals where people paid up to $75 for "mountains of french fries and oceans of ketchup," but received cold slices of miniature pizza — worked as the social media coordinator for Harlem Brew Festival scheduled for Sept. 30.

Harlem Brewing Company owner Celeste Beatty, who has spent the past couple of years organizing the beer festival, asked Osekre to step down "due to other concerns," without specifying further.

Before being asked to step down, Osekre told DNAinfo New York that he felt bad that the backlash from the pizza event was having a negative effect on the beer festival. 

"Me, as an individual, should not be a cloud over Harlem finally getting its beer festival," he said. "The event happening is more important than me being involved in an event like that."

On Wednesday morning, Osekre posted a message on the event's Facebook page stating that he will refund all attendees of the Bushwick festivals. 

"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," he wrote.

Doug Cohen, a spokesman for the state Attorney General, confirmed news reports that the office is asking people who attended the Brooklyn event to submit complaints and has been trying to contact the organizer. 

Beatty, who started as a homebrewer in her Harlem studio, founded the Harlem Brewing Company in 2000 and has seen it grow to the point where her beers are sold in the South and as far away as Japan.

She sees the festival as celebration of Harlem overall, not just beer and food, with the event set to include live music, dance and art.

“I know there’s an amazing culture here in Harlem,” Beatty said. “Aside from sharing great beers, we are highlighting the culture of Harlem.”

There is no indication that the festival will suffer from the same organizational failures as the pizza and burger events. More than 50 brewers have already confirmed for the event, and Beatty has been working in the craft beer industry for more than a decade.

Additionally, Harlem Park to Park, a business alliance with more than 50 members and a history of hosting successful events in the neighborhood, is helping secure food vendors.

Nikoa Evans-Hendricks, the group's founder, has worked with Beatty for years and is happy to be a part of Harlem’s first festival dedicated to beer.

“Anything to support Celeste’s efforts to bring more focus to the craft beverage community here in Harlem, we’ll do that,” she said.

Beatty thought it was unfair that Osekre’s involvement became distraction, considering his small role and the fact that he was not dealing with any vendors directly.

“For our event, he has nothing to do with the vendors,” she said. “We have longstanding relationships directly with the restaurants that we invited.”