Food News

The Jig Is Up for L.A.'s Dumb Starbucks, but its Legal Dance Has Just Begun

If you spent much time on Facebook over the weekend and have any "friends" from Los Angeles, you were likely peppered with posts and pictures about Dumb Starbucks. A coffee shop bearing the corporate java giant's logo, prefixed with the word "dumb," opened in Los Feliz, giving away free coffee and serving pastries purchased at a nearby grocery. It was just like Starbucks, only dumber, with drinks including Dumb Iced Coffee, Dumb Cappuccino and Wuppy Duppy Latte.

By Sunday afternoon, a line stretched out the door, with customers waiting more than an hour to get what most eventually described as bad coffee. Some came to protest against corporate giants in defense of the little man, some came to see what they thought was performance art, and some came for what was undoubtedly the number one Instagram opportunity in L.A. for a while.

The man behind the shop revealed himself yesterday. Comedian Nathan Fielder admitted the store was a promotional stunt, amidst speculation of how long it would take the real Starbucks to shut the store down. But in the end, the coffee shop's demise came from health code violations, not corporate litigation.

Just as Starbucks released a statement saying Fielder could not use their name, which is protected by trademark, Los Angeles County health inspectors shut the coffee shop down for operating without a permit. They pasted a notice of closure to the door despite Fielder's claims that he was operating an art exhibit and thus, didn't need a permit.

Starbucks, meanwhile, hasn't announced what action they'll be taking. Fielder claimed that his actions were under protection of "parody law" because the "Dumb" in Dumb Starbucks made is obvious that the whole thing was for the laughs. If his parody law defense works as well as his claim that art exhibits don't need permits to operate as coffee shops, however, Fielder may soon learn why well-caffeinated corporate lawyers aren't exactly known for their sense of humor.

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Scott Reitz
Contact: Scott Reitz