Last week the media was abuzz about a new coffee shop in LA. While the coffee itself was nothing too special, the name was provocative to say the least. “Dumb Starbucks” had a near-identical menu to the coffee giant, with one exception: the word dumb preceded every drink. And while I imagine it was silly to order a Dumb Grande Dumb Latte, I couldn’t help but chuckle. How was this legal? According to a well written FAQ available in the Dumb Store, the shop falls under a “parody art” loophole in the law. By their own claim, Dumb Starbucks isn’t a coffee shop; instead, it is a parody art gallery where the art in question is the coffee being sold.
Starbucks eventually responded, saying: “We are evaluating next steps and while we appreciate the humor, they cannot use our name, which is a protected trademark.” And, as expected, Dumb Starbucks got shut down yesterday by the LA County department of health services.
As it turns out, this was all an elaborate prank from Comedy Central’s Nathan Fielder to promote his upcoming new show, Nathan For You. While this initial stage of the joke is complete, he plans to take Dumb Starbucks to Brooklyn next. I’m hoping I can make it down there and get some live coverage of the shenanigans whenever they end up unfolding.
The attraction generated a host of media coverage, everywhere from USA Today to The Verge. A name well known to the specialty coffee community threw in his two cents as well: tonx co-founder Tony Konecny. He actually got eyes-on the store and shot the instagram photo above before tweeting:
hey @dumbstarbucks, if you guys need some beans and some help moving this line, I might like to help.
— tonx (@tonx) February 10, 2014
In my view, Dumb Starbucks is pretty dumb. But they illustrate a great point: people enjoy making fun of anything too ubiquitous or too large. Perhaps the tide is turning for Starbucks and other similar coffee giants. And man, what I would give to have tonx beans available at your corner cafe.
Stay tuned for more coverage down the road.
The Coffee Guy