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Is mock Starbucks grounds for lawsuit or laughs?

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Los Feliz was buzzing Sunday afternoon as crowds of people lined up for hours to grab a cup of coffee from, uh, Dumb Starbucks.

The mock store, which quietly opened Friday, is nearly identical to a typical Starbucks location, with tumblers and CDs, including "Dumb Jazz Standards," on display — but not for sale.

Drinks are served in cups that mock the Seattle coffee giant's logo, while pastries are pulled from display cases straight in their Vons' packaging. The menu features such offerings as Dumb Iced Coffee, Dumb Frappuccinos and Wuppy Duppy Latte.

But only iced coffees and lattes were available — free of charge — to promote the new business, an upbeat barista told customers after apologizing for the wait. Just two workers staffed the busy store, and merchandise was being delivered throughout the afternoon.

"They're definitely not serving at Starbucks' pace," joked customer Jeffrey Eyster, 43, who hadn't even made it to the door after about an hour in line.

As word of the shop spread on social media, curious customers came to snap selfies in front of the sign or photos of the line of people wrapped around the small strip mall. Those who cut to avoid a several-hour wait were promptly shamed out of line.

Rumors about the store's origin — a marketing ploy, an art installation or perhaps the work of a comedian — percolated through the crowd.

"It's a ballsy move on their part," said Ilya Khramtsou, 24. "It feels like they're sticking it to the company. Everybody drinks Starbucks coffee, like zombies."

"She drinks it every day," he said, laughing as he motioned to his girlfriend, Alisa Bazhenova, 24.

The couple stopped by to snap a quick photo but decided not to stay once they saw the line.

"I hope it's an art thing vs. a business thing," Eyster said, adding that he would love to see dumb McDonald's and dumb Cheesecake Factory restaurants pop up — franchises where customers get the same experience at every location.

Starbucks is aware of the parody and is "looking into it," said Megan Adams, a spokeswoman for the company. She declined to say whether legal action would be pursued or whether it was the first mock Starbucks. An email sent to Dumb Starbucks was not immediately returned.

A list of frequently asked questions pegs the legality of the mock store to "parody art" — an art gallery where the coffee is considered the art.

Those who did wait in line Sunday said they came for the novelty, assuming it would be shut down before the weekend was over.

"It's a very L.A. thing," said Connor Sweeney, 24. "We'll see how long it lasts."

Maro Ishimoro, who owns a salon next door, said people were lined up early, even before the shop had opened for the day. He saw a film crew there a few days ago but wasn't sure what was happening.

"What's going on? What is this, coffee?" an incredulous neighbor asked patrons, poking his head inside the store and turning to stare at the crowd. "There's coffee right there," he said, pointing to a bar next door.

Those looking to wait in line can find the shop — for now — at 1802 Hillhurst Ave.

samantha.schaefer@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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