Dumb Starbucks, the Los Angeles coffee shop that intrigued America by daring to mock one of our most sacred and litigious corporate idols, is dead. Last night, the Los Angeles County Department Of Public Health shut down the store—ostensibly for the minor transgression of operating without a health permit, but really because Dumb Starbucks was just too good an idea for our callow society. As the store’s proprietor explained during a press conference last night, the concept behind Dumb Starbucks was to wrap the store in the protective embrace of First Amendment law by casting the store as a “parody” and treating the coffee as “art”—thus giving Dumb Starbucks legal standing to use Starbucks’ branding and logo.
As many observers guessed, the architect of this scheme was Nathan Fielder, host of Comedy Central’s reality series Nathan For You—which is produced by Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim’s Abso Lutely Productions. Fielder spoke to a sizable assembly of reporters outside the Dumb Starbucks storefront, telling the crowd that he had taken note of the “pushback” from Starbucks’ lawyers. He responded with a threat, stating that “if they keep the pressure up, they do risk losing me as a customer.”
Fielder was in his usual fine form, earnest and quick to take umbrage when people don’t take him seriously. When one reporter made a move to retrieve her audio equipment in the midst of Fielder’s appearance, he called her out: “You can’t just run up and take a mic. You can come at the end and you can claim it. I’m not done yet.” Dumb Starbucks isn’t done yet, either, as Fielder announced that he “will soon be opening a second location in Brooklyn, New York, in the next two weeks.” Fielder then had to cut the press conference short, as authorities from the L.A. health department were waiting to have a word with him. They apparently weren’t satisfied with Fielder’s argument that his store was an art gallery and thus didn’t need any health permits. It remains to be seen whether Brooklyn’s restaurant regulators will demonstrate such a lack of vision.
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