Mystery Over ‘Dumb Starbucks’ Opening

By on Monday, February 10, 2014

An independent coffee shop branded “Dumb Starbucks,” which uses the Starbucks logo and bears an identical look to the real McCoy, is causing a quite a media stir and interest from legal commentators.


The shop opened up in Los Feliz Los Angeles  over the weekend,  but staff insist they’re not breaking any laws despite the fact that the menu is almost identical to the real Starbucks apart from one word – ‘dumb’.

Organisers behind the stunt* say that by using the word Dumb, it makes it a parody and is therefore permissible under freedom of speech laws.

‘All of the coffee, brewed by two baristas, is free’ reports the Daily Mail, ‘there’s a Dumb Starbucks menu, even Dumb Starbucks cups (in Dumb Grande, Dumb Venti and Dumb Tall sizes).’

You can also pick up a Dumb Espresso, Dumb Iced Coffee, and Dumb Frappuccinos.


Starbucks spokesperson Megan Adams told South California Public Radio. “Its obviously not a Starbucks.”

She declined to respond to questions about whether this has ever happened before to the company, or whether it would take legal action.

Baristas supply diners with  a ‘frequently asked questions list.’

The FAQ notes; “Although we are a fully functioning coffee shop, for legal reasons Dumb Starbucks needs to be categorized as a work of parody art. So, in the eyes of the law, our “coffee shop” is actually an art gallery and the “coffee” you’re buying is actually the art. But that’s for our lawyers to worry about. All you need to do is enjoy our delicious coffee!”


One barista told The Hollywood Reporter that he was hired two weeks ago when he found the posting on Craigslist. “Our boss wasn’t prepared for all this, that’s why we’re short staffed,” he said.

Dumb Starbucks has a Twitter account at @dumbstarbucks, and local fans like The Office’s Rainn Wilson are posting pictures.


You can even purchase Dumb Starbucks music – CD’s include ‘Dumb Nora Jones’ and ‘Dumb Jazz Standards’.


After coverage on CNBC, Forbes, Harvard Business Review and business media outlet Fast Company, it has already received nearly 5,000 followers on Twitter.

David Hochman at Forbes said; ‘It may have been the dumbest stunt in coffee history. Or else the coolest, smoothest move since the Frappuccino itself.’

So is it an inspired piece of satirical performance art? A stunt for a reality TV show or movie? Or an mischievous act of brand sabotage?

*11.2.14 Update: Comedian Nathan Fielder reveals himself as the founder of ‘Dumb Starbucks’


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