"Dumb Starbucks" Draws Crowds - and Plenty of Questions

The coffee shop claims it sees Starbucks as a role model and must call itself "dumb" for legal reasons

By Christina Cocca
|  Monday, Feb 10, 2014  |  Updated 5:27 PM PDT
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"Dumb Starbucks" Draws Crowds - and Plenty of Questions

Dumb Starbucks via Twitter

Dumb Starbucks tweeted it was open for business on Friday, Feb. 7, 2014.

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Is it real, fake, or just plain "dumb?"

The mystery of Southern California's latest coffee craze isn't about organic milk or Fair Trade beans, but rather, who exactly is running the "Dumb Starbucks" operation -- and how it's allowed to even exist.

Dumb Starbucks -- yes, you read that correctly -- popped up seemingly out of nowhere in the Los Feliz storefront that once housed the now-defunct Gastronomico.

The logo on the storefront is that of the actual Starbucks, but with the word "dumb" inserted into the label. The same protocol applies to the entire menu, down to the tall, grande and venti sizes.

Though "Dumb Caramel Macchiato" and "Dumb Hazelnut Frappuccino" are listed on the menu posted on the shop's Twitter page, a crowd of patrons on Saturday got free coffee and pastries reportedly purchased from a nearby Vons and handed out by store employees, according to NBC4's media partner KPCC.

"It's obviously not a Starbucks," Megan Adams, a spokeswoman for the real Starbucks coffee chain, told KPCC. "We are looking into it right now."

The imitation coffee chain, aware of its bizarre business model, claims its existence at 1802 Hillhurst Avenue is allowed thanks to "parody law" as described in a Frequently Asked Questions list.

"By adding the word 'dumb,' we are technically 'making fun of Starbucks, which allows us to use their trademarks under a law known as 'fair use.'"

The FAQ goes on to explain, "Although we are a fully functioning coffee shop, for legal reasons, Dumb Starbucks needs to be categorized as a work of parody art ... But that's for our lawyers to worry about. All you need to do is enjoy our delicious coffee!"

The company's FAQ also describes its admiration for Starbucks.

"We love Starbucks and look up to them as role models. Unfortunately, the only way to use their intellectual property under fair use is if we are making fun of them. So the 'dumb' comes out of necessity, not enmity."

Confused yet curious consumers took to Twitter as they lined up outside the coffee shop in question on Saturday and Sunday.

"Are your dumb coffees still free today?" @LukeOneil47 asked.

"Did someone say #lawsuit? Good to see that people can still be fleeced out of $4 for a cup o'Joe. Now THATS #capitalism!" @EleventhEarl tweeted.

"That does it, I'm opening a parody coffee shop called 'Not Dumb Starbucks," @Abobrow said.

The coffee shop didn't stop with its name and menu. "Dumb" versions of CDs, including "Dumb Jazz Standards" and "Dumb Nora Jones Duets" sat at the cash register.

Baffled Angelenos have yet to get any real answers from the company, but that hasn't stopped them from lining up around the block to take a peek inside of the parody pop-up shop.

Requests to Dumb Starbucks for comment from NBC4 were not returned by time of publication.

Check out the social media sensation that is "Dumb Starbucks" below:

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