Dumb Starbucks: Smart Art, PopUp Parody, or Something Else?

This past weekend, “Dumb Starbucks” opened in the upscale Los Feliz section of Los Angeles.

Best guess is that this is (or was, as it will probably be gone shortly) a satirical piece of art.  Satire is generally protected as “fair comment” under U.S. law; artwork is covered under the First Amendment.   Starbucks has said that their lawyers are “looking at it.”  But as long as this is a limited “art installation,” it’s unlikely Starbucks will provide any free publicity for “Dumb Starbucks.”   If they try opening one for paying customers in a mall near you, however, .

reblogged by Keith Dickinson from the LOS ANGELES TIMES



‘Dumb Starbucks’ coffee shop opens in Los Feliz

    Dumb Starbucks

    Patrons wait in line outside “Dumb Starbucks” in Los Feliz on Sunday afternoon. (Christina House / Los Angeles Times / February 9, 2014)

    By Samantha Schaefer

    February 9, 2014, 4:20 p.m.


    Los Feliz was buzzing Sunday afternoon as crowds of people lined up for hours to grab a cup of coffee from, uh, “Dumb Starbucks.”

    The mock store, which quietly opened Friday, is nearly identical to a typical Starbucks location, with tumblers for sale and trendy CDs, including “Dumb Jazz Standards,” displayed on the counter.

    But the similarities end there. Drinks here are served in green and white “Dumb Starbucks coffee” cups, while pastries are pulled from display cases straight from their Vons’ packaging.

    The menu features “Dumb Iced Coffee,” “Dumb Frappuccinos,” and a seasonal “Wuppy Duppy Latte.”

    But only iced coffees and lattes were available — for free, to promote the new business, an upbeat barista told customers after apologizing for the wait.

    “They’re definitely not serving at Starbucks pace,”  customer Jeffrey Eyster, 43, joked after waiting about an hour in line.

    As word of the shop spread on social media, curious customers came to snap selfies in front of the sign or photos of the line wrapped around the small strip mall. Those who cut to avoid a nearly two-hour wait were promptly shamed out of line.

    Rumors about the store’s origin percolated through the crowd — a marketing ploy, a pop-up art installation, perhaps reality TV?

    “It’s a ballsy move on their part,” said Ilya Khramtsou, 24. “It feels like they’re sticking it to the company. Everybody drinks Starbucks coffee, like zombies.”

    “She drinks it every day,” he said, laughing as he motioned to his girlfriend Alisa Bazhenova, 24.

    The couple stopped by to snap a quick photo, but decided not to stay once they saw the wait.

    “I hope it’s an art thing vs. a business thing,” Eyster said. “I’d love to see a whole chain of dumb McDonald’s and dumb Cheesecake Factories.”

    People can go to any mall anywhere and have the same experience at each of these chains, Eyster said.

    Starbucks is aware of the parody and is “looking into it,” said Megan Adams, a spokeswoman for the company. She declined to say whether legal action would be pursued or if this has happened before.

    An email sent to Dumb Starbucks was not immediately returned.

    A list of frequently asked questions pegs the legality of the mock store to “parody art.”

    “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 considered the art. But that’s for our lawyers to worry about. All you need to do is enjoy our delicious coffee!”

    Those who did wait in line said they came for the novelty of the shop, assuming it would be shut down before the weekend was over.

    “It’s a very L.A. thing,” said Connor Sweeney, 24. “We’ll see how long it lasts, that’s why I’m here today.”

    He said he hoped it’s a joke, rather than some kind of advertising ploy.

    Maro Ishimoro, who owns a salon next door, said people have been lined up outside his door for hours, even before the mock store had opened for the day. He said he saw a film crew in the storefront a few days ago, but wasn’t sure what was happening.

    The extra traffic hasn’t increased his business, only made parking a hassle for his customers, he said.

    An incredulous neighbor asked those waiting in line: “What’s going on? What is this, coffee?” 

    “There’s coffee right there,” he said, pointing to the Drawing Room next door.

    Those looking to wait in line can find the shop at 1802 Hillhurst Ave. 


    Twitter: @Sam_Schaefer


    Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times



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