By now you've probably heard of Dumb Starbucks, the mysterious, pranksterish coffee shop that appeared out of nowhere and opened for business in a Los Feliz, California, strip mall on Friday. Speculation is that Dumb Starbucks, which has been mobbed with customers, is an art project, a foray into the state of modern "fair use" laws, or possibly both. Every piece of in-store branding is evocative of the original, but with the word "dumb" attached like a prefix to every espresso drink, and even on the paper cups. By the front counter, guests can check out "Dumb Jazz Standards," "Dumb Nora [sic] Jones 'Duets,'" and "Dumb Taste of Cuba," CDs, so these guys are thorough in addition to cheeky. And over the weekend, curious guests lined up for a taste of Dumb Frappuccinos and Dumb Blonde Roast.
Some apparently waited for hours.
If anyone wants to pay me to irresponsibly speculate on the Dumb Starbucks phenomenon, I am happy to oblige. pic.twitter.com/swa5aoBN1ASarah Brin (@dinosaurrparty) February 9, 2014
The line is around the corner for Dumb Starbucks. pic.twitter.com/QJbCjLo7PjWayne Elise (@Wayne_Elise) February 9, 2014
Ugh. Dumb Starbucks always has such a long line! pic.twitter.com/UWj7KeyfwQConor Barrett (@colonelchi) February 9, 2014
The knockoff shop got early boosts from Community's Dan Harmon and actor Rainn Wilson, who both posted photos of it on Twitter. It even has its own Twitter account, which has already inspired a knockoff of its knockoff, and more than a few customers are reviewing it online as they would a legit business, even though the coffee and pastries are free. "I tried black coffee and caramel macchiato," wrote one Yelp reviewer. "Caramel macchiato tasted like hazelnut. Black coffee was watery and it wasn't hot, not even warm."
It's not yet clear who's behind the chain, but an FAQ circulated at Dumb Starbucks emphasizes that its operators actually admire the coffee chain, and are using the principle of "fair use" to establish the business as parody, which could conceivably protect Dumb Starbucks from litigation. Starbucks, which is famous for forcing a Bangkok coffee vendor called Starbung to change its name (it did, to "Bung Tears") and a convincing a Missouri brewpub to stop pouring "Frappicino" beer, is seemingly not as enthused about the new shop as the public.
"It's obviously not a Starbucks," a representative told Southern California Public Radio yesterday, adding that the corporation was investigating.
'Dumb Starbucks' mystery: Who's behind the faux coffee front in Los Feliz? [KCCP]
Earlier: Starbucks Sends Cease and Desist to Brewpub Serving Frappicino Beer, Owner Responds