Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 2 August 2014

'Dumb Starbucks' mystery revealed

People wait at a "Dumb Starbucks" coffee shop in Los Angeles which has proved a mystery in the making (AP)

A Canadian comedian has confessed to the prank coffee shop called "Dumb Starbucks" that proved popular after serving free drinks from the corner of a shopping mall in California.

On Monday morning a line from the store wound alongside the parking lot and up the block, with some patrons stepping out to snap pictures in front of a green awning and mermaid logo that is familiar to the global coffee chain Starbucks, except that the word "Dumb" is prominently featured.

Nathan Fielder told a crowd he was pursuing the "American dream" - before acknowledging that he planned to use the stunt on his Comedy Central show "Nathan For You."

The descriptions of the coffee ranged from "horrible" to "bitter," and one parent said his daughter complained that the hot chocolate was like water, but that did not stop hundreds of people lining up to score a white paper cup with a sticker bearing the curious logo.

"It was a pretty dumb idea to come out in the cold," joked Anthony Solis who waited for almost two hours.

The store's decor was reminiscent of a real Starbucks, complete with a huge menu on which most of the drinks were prefaced by "dumb" such as dumb iced coffee and 'dumb white chocolate mocha. The cash register was dark, though the tip jar was bulging.

In a statement, the real Seattle-based coffee giant said it has no affiliation with the Dumb Starbucks.

"While we appreciate the humour, they cannot use our name, which is a protected trademark," spokeswoman Laurel Harper said.

At the coffee shop counter, a frequently asked questions sheet said the store was shielded by "parody law."

"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 sheet said.

It continued: "In the eyes of the law, our 'coffee shop' is actually an art gallery and the 'coffee' you're buying is considered art. But that's for our lawyers to worry about."

Fielder, the comedian, told a news conference that he didn't need Starbucks' permission and he was glad they had not pursued a "case they know they can't win."

Soon after, he said city health inspectors had arrived and told his staff that they had to stop serving drinks.

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