When you order a to-go beverage, it’s usually a pretty simple process. The waiter or barista pours the drink into a cup, you carry it to your car, and then you try to consume it without causing some kind of minor traffic incident. But if you order a tea to go at Nubo and Moo Moo in Elk Grove, California, the staff is forced to smile through clenched teeth while they say they’re terribly sorry, but that isn’t allowed—and Starbucks is to blame.
Nubo and Moo Moo is an Asian-fusion restaurant that serves boba tea (also known as bubble tea), the sweet fruit-flavored or milky tea that is mixed with tapioca balls and then immediately Instagrammed. The cafe is good at what it does, and business was booming, according to owner Andy Ha… or at least it was until Starbucks called its attorneys. Nubo and Moo Moo is in the same shopping center as a Starbucks, and the coffee giant has a clause in its rental agreement that says no to-go coffees or teas can be sold by other businesses in that mall, not unless they have its own green mermaid on the cups.
“[Starbucks’] lawyer called us and said that any tea or tea-based drink you can't take to-go," Ha told ABC10. “We're the little mom and pop shop, we don't have the big lawyer to represent us.”
Now Ha and his staffers have to tell customers that they’re terribly sorry, but they’ll have to sit inside the restaurant to finish their tea, which many people think is weird and don’t want to do.
As a result, Ha says his business has been slashed by 40 percent, and would-be customers have occasionally taken out their frustrations on him. “People often come in here and then when we tell them you can't take a tea based drink to go, they get angry and just walk out," he said.
Some of Ha’s supporters have turned to Yelp, to write a soon-to-be-deleted one-star review of the neighboring Starbucks and threatening to boycott the brand, like, forever. “Nubo's tea drinks have nothing in common with Starbucks offerings other than they're served in a cup,” one tea-lover named Aaron C wrote. “Next you'll say that you can't have chairs because we have chairs or a door because we have a door [...] Peet's has better coffee anyway.”
Starbucks is basically shrugging its shoulders and saying “Sorry, not sorry.” In a statement to the news station, a spokesperson said “As with all of our locations, we continually work with our landlords to determine what makes the most sense for our stores, as is the case here."
(MUNCHIES has reached out to Starbucks for additional comment and clarification but has not yet received a response.)
What makes sense for their stores is apparently calling their attorneys and threatening small businesses that also sell caffeinated liquids. You do you, Starbucks!