Business development · 23 October 2015

Bermondsey coffee shop with “offensive” sign in hot water with landlords

Owner Adrian Jones uploaded a photo of the legal notice to Twitter
Owner Adrian Jones uploaded a photo of the legal notice to Twitter

All businesses know the trials and tribulations of branding, the long hours spent on getting everything just right – including the name of the firm itself.

So imagine the frustration of a Bermondsey coffee shop when the owner was served a legal notice from his landlords saying the shop sign had to be removed. The reason? It was deemed “offensive” as the name of the shop was F***offee – clearly seen on the display.

Adrian Jones, owner of the shop, said it had only been intended as a joke, but he was told by building owners it would be torn down unless he voluntarily removes it.

The front of the shop
The front of the shop

He posted the notice to Twitter and received a groundswell of support from customers.

Jones had initially asked his maintenance man to get the sign in question up while he was on holiday and returned to social media run amok – though sales were up 20 per cent.

The resulting furore over whether the landlords were right to make the order has itself hugely raised the coffee shop’s profile – showing that controversial branding can pay off well for a small business, as long as you have the majority of the public – including your customers – onside.

Jones said “the police played up a bit, but later admitted there’s no legal problem with it”. However, when it came to the letter “I’ve spoken to my solicitor and he says we haven’t got a leg to stand on”.

He added he wasn’t quite sure how he’d feel if he owned a flat over a shop called F***offee.

Jones opened his first cafe back in the late 90s and now also owns Goswell Road Coffee in Islington, but unsurprisingly, it’s F***offee which has caught the eye.

He claimed it was now “the second most photographed shopfront on Instagram in the UK” – with none other than Harrods taking the top spot. More than 1,300 posts on the social network are tagged with the name.

Perhaps fittingly for an arguably offensive shop name, Jones said Gordon Ramsay – a chef renowned for his swearing as much as his food – is among the customers who frequents the cafe.

Russell Brand, Bob Geldof and PJ Harvey are also said to be fans.

Jones though, admitted he would likely stand down on the matter. “We’ve had fun with it, but I do think it may be time to move on. Once I start getting legal threats, that’s when the wife starts to get the hump.”

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Rebecca is a reporter for Business Advice. Prior to this, she worked with a range of tech, advertising, media and digital clients at Propeller PR and did freelance work for The Telegraph.

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