retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

There's a new Starbucks in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles. Except that it's not actually a Starbucks.

The sign over the door actually says "Dumb Starbucks," and there is a "Dumb Starbucks" menu board, and there are Dumb Starbucks cups - Dumb Grande, Dumb Venti and Dumb Tall - as well as a drinks list that include “Dumb Vanilla Blonde Roast,” “Dumb Chai Tea Latte,” and “Dumb Caramel Macchiato."

In fact, if the owners are to be believed, the Dumb Starbucks isn't even a coffee shop. it's performance art.

“Although we are a fully functioning coffee shop," a statement by owners says, "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!”

Apparently the Dumb Starbucks did land office business the first weekend it was open - the coffee was free.

The Wall Street Journal writes that a Starbucks spokesman says that the company is "aware" of the parody, "and looking into it." However, that is unlikely to be the end of it, in view of the fact that Starbucks can be litigious when it comes to its copyrights - it was just a month ago that its lawyers sent a cease-and-desist letter to a small brewery in Cottleville, Missouri, that was selling a beer called "Frappicino."

Satire, playwright George S. Kaufman once famously said, "is what closes on Saturday night." We'll see how long Dumb Starbucks can last.
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