Customers waiting hours for 23-cent pizzas in Ohio


Wearing a blue LeBron James "Witness" T-shirt, Patrick Mone was willing to wait as long as necessary to get a 23-cent pizza in a promotion aimed at apologizing to Cleveland Cavaliers fans for a slam against their beloved All-Star.

Lines were so long Thursday at some of the 86 Papa John's stores offering a large, one-topping pizza for 23 cents that police stood nearby to make sure people didn't get unruly. Some customers waited hours.

"It's worth it," said Mone, who waited at a Westlake mini-mall in a line that snaked through a parking lot and across a lawn to the road. "All the money is going to charity, and obviously, it's bringing new business to Papa John's."

The price was a homage to James' jersey number.

The Louisville, Ky.-based Papa John's agreed to the 23-cent offer after a franchisee in Washington, D.C., made T-shirts calling star LeBron James a "crybaby." The shirts referred to James' complaints about hard fouls during a playoff series that the Washington Wizards lost to the Cavaliers. The company also will donate $10,000 to the Cavaliers Youth Fund.

"It's a recession busting offer, and we certainly hope we have made it up to Cleveland," Tim North, vice president of the company's northeast division, told WEWS-TV of Cleveland.

Each Papa John's location offering the deal in the Cleveland, Columbus, Toledo and Youngstown areas was prepared to sell more than 900 pies. Outlets were ordered to close early if, as expected, they ran out of pizzas. In Akron, one location gave rain checks good for one week.

Locations were making 300 pizzas an hour to satisfy lines in which customers waited 90 minutes, North said.

There were a few headaches, mostly complaints about lack of parking, long waits and line-cutting, and one about a stolen pizza.

In Garfield Heights, a customer who bought a pizza at about 10 p.m. told police it was stolen as she was walking away by a man who began talking to her, then swiped the box and ran. The shop replaced her pizza.

Police said 600 waited in line in Euclid, where one customer was arrested for public intoxication, one for disorderly conduct and one for resisting.

In University Heights, an auxiliary police officer tried to settle a line-cutting complaint without riling either side. In Springfield Township outside Akron, police said their was an argument between two people in line, but no one was hurt and there were no arrests.

Officers were called before 5 p.m. to help close the pizza shops due to concerns that there might be rowdy crowds, said Columbus police spokeswoman Amanda Ford. She said the Franklin County Sheriff's Office was called to help at a location that had the most problems. A manager also requested special-duty officers from 6 p.m. to midnight.

In suburban Cleveland, people stood wrapped in blankets outside a store in Westlake and the line was two blocks long in University Heights.

"I did it for the principle of it. The principle of it is he's not a crybaby and Papa John's should not have gotten into it," Jennie Moore, 54, of University Heights, said as she waited for a pepperoni pizza.

Randall Hunter, 50, from Cleveland Heights, spent most of his four-hour split between bus driving shifts waiting for his pepperoni pizza. He defended James and what he said were flagrant fouls he received in the Washington series.

"You hit him in the face, you undercut him where he could really have an injury," Hunter said. "He could be out the rest of the season."

Kimberly Hall drove from Cleveland to Euclid to get a pizza, getting in line at 5 p.m. She got the last pizza from the shop, which began at 8:25 p.m. passing out vouchers good until Sunday to 150 customers.

"I'm going home to eat my pizza," she said. "But now I'm not even hungry. I'm mad. They should have organized this better."


AP Sports Writer Tom Withers contributed to this report.

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