“Dumb Starbucks” Opens In Los Angeles

It’s just like a regular Starbucks, except everything about it is preceded by the word “dumb”–and the real Starbucks didn’t build it.


UPDATE: Nathan Fielder, creator of Comedy Central’s Nathan For You, has claimed responsibility for Dumb Starbucks. The parody store has also been shut down by the Los Angeles health department, according to The Hollywood Reporter.


Who’s behind the Dumb Starbucks that opened in Los Angeles over the weekend? It could be just about anybody, but we’re holding out hope that it’s Shia LaBeouf.

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“Dumb Starbucks Coffee” is the name of a shop that appeared at 1802 Hillhurst Ave. in Los Feliz over the weekend, and it’s more or less identical to a coffee shop owned by the Starbucks Corporation, but for the word “dumb” preceding everything having to do with the store. Dumb Starbucks has appropriated nearly all of Starbucks’s intellectual property–from its Mermaid logo, to the font on the outside of the building, to the names of its drinks (fancy a Dumb Frappucino, anybody?). The store’s FAQ explores the legality of this, citing “parody law.”

“By adding the word ‘dumb,’ we are technically ‘making fun’ of Starbucks, which allows us to use their trademarks under a law known as ‘fair use,'” the FAQ explains, adding that, while Dumb Starbucks Coffee is a fully functioning coffee shop (that admittedly doesn’t charge for its product), fair use law means that “in the eyes of the law, our ‘coffee shop’ is actually an art gallery, and the ‘coffee’ you’re buying is considered the art.”

That explanation probably wouldn’t hold up in court if Dumb Starbucks intended to be around for the long haul and charge for its product. In the short term, though, it’s hard not to be impressed by the fastidiousness of the creators (other products include Dumb Norah Jones Duets CDs by the counter) in making such a full parody of the retailer. Given the fact that the coffee is free, the thing appeared overnight with baristas hired off of Craigslist, and the whole thing has generated such a stir that the lines at Dumb Starbucks stretch for over an hour for a Dumb Caramel Macchiato, we’re going to assume until proven otherwise that the whole enterprise is intended as short-term performance art designed to get us to question the hows and whys of intellectual property law.

The people at Starbucks have said they are trying to contact the perpetrators and that “We are evaluating next steps, and while we appreciate the humor, they cannot use our name, which is a protected trademark.”

About the author

Dan Solomon lives in Austin with his wife and his dog. He's written about music for MTV and Spin, sports for Sports Illustrated, and pop culture for Vulture and the AV Club