Over the weekend, the internet was abuzz with news of a new Los Angeles coffee shop called “Dumb Starbucks,” a near-fully functioning Starbucks that 1) was blatantly not affiliated with the company and 2) used the company’s name and logo “for marketing purposes” but adds the word “dumb” in front of everything to protect the business under parody laws. Dumb Starbucks, which had its windows tinted to prevent passersby from looking inside, didn’t charge money for coffee and pastries, instead giving away free cups of coffee featuring the Dumb Starbucks logo.
Since it opened Friday afternoon at 1802 Hillhurst Ave in LA’s Los Feliz neighborhood, the legally questionable establishment attracted a lot of internet and media attention and by Monday, the line for the parody coffee shop wrapped around the block and had a four-hour wait.
After The AP discovered TV production company Abso Lutely, run by Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim had obtained a filming permit for the location, Nathan Fielder, star/co-creator of Comedy Central’s docu-reality series Nathan For You, revealed himself to be behind Dumb Starbucks yesterday afternoon, as many speculated. Fielder held a press release outside the storefront, promising tongue-in-cheek that he intends to keep the store open “forever,” and uploaded the above video to YouTube identifying himself as president and founder of Dumb Starbucks. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health came and shut down the store for operating without a food permit shortly thereafter. Thankfully, in the press conference Fielder said he plans to open a Dumb Starbucks in Brooklyn in the coming weeks, so east coast lovers of parody coffee shops will get their chance to wait in line for four hours for a free cup of dumb coffee too.
Fielder’s Dumb Starbucks stunt will be the subject of an episode in Nathan For You’s second season, which will consist of 10 episodes and is expected to premiere sometime this summer. This isn’t the first time Fielder’s antics have made headlines. Last year, a video of a pig rescuing a baby goat went viral but was just a stunt for an episode of his show and he has attracted media attention from encouraging his Twitter followers to text weird things to their loved ones.
Comedy Central’s attorneys confirmed that they believe the Dumb Starbucks stunt to be legally safe, with a spokesperson for the cable network’s parent company Viacom telling THR, “The episode relating to ‘Dumb Starbucks’ constitutes protected free expression. Viacom takes intellectual property rights seriously, and also recognizes the important constitutional protection afforded to expressive works characterized by social commentary.”
A Starbucks spokesperson disagreed, saying, “We are evaluating next steps and while we appreciate the humor, they cannot use our name, which is a protected trademark.”
Patrons of the store were handed this FAQ sheet about the legality of Dumb Starbucks:
Here’s an Instagram shot actor Rainn Wilson took from within Dumb Starbucks that captures most of the stuff inside it: