Bad Ass: Coffee shop with provocative name opens in Alabama City months after official allegations of vulgarity

Amy Schnitzler, familiar with the brand and its catchy name, popped into Orange Beach’s newest coffee shop on Friday.

“I wish I was here tomorrow to get a free t-shirt that said ‘Bad Ass,'” said Schnitzler of River Falls, Wisconsin, who was vacationing on the Alabama Gulf Coast this week, of a gift tomorrow.

Bad Ass Coffee of Hawaii is hosting a two-day grand opening at its small coffee shop in a mall along Canal Road.

The opening comes about five months after the Orange Beach coffee shop’s name caused a stir after city officials branded it unsuitable for children following a council meeting.

“My feelings are the same on the name,” Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon said Thursday. He first addressed the name after a Facebook commenter noticed the “In God We Trust” slogan displayed in council chambers and asked why the city would allow a cafe in town with “obscenities in the title.” .

“The only point I wanted to make is that our society has lowered the bar on what’s acceptable with mixed company and kids around, and that bothers me,” Kennon said. “In my time growing up, there were certain things kids didn’t say or they were in danger of being betrayed by mom and dad.”

Hawaiian heritage

Badass coffee from Hawaii

Bad Ass Coffee of Hawaii, a chain of approximately 30 coffee shops in nine states, held a grand opening celebration for their Orange Beach, Alabama location on Friday, January 20, 2023. The coffeeshop’s name caused controversy in Orange Beach after city officials said after a council meeting they wouldn’t patronize it. Bad Ass Coffee officials say the brand is named for the reliably stubborn but strong donkeys that once hauled coffee beans in Hawaii. (John Sharp/[email protected]).

Scott Snyder, CEO of Bad Ass Coffee Company of Hawaii — a chain of about 30 coffee shops in nine states — said the name wasn’t meant to be profane. He said the cafe’s brand encompasses the historical and cultural significance of the donkey that transported coffee products in Hawaii.

“The name follows a story about how they started growing coffee in Hawaii in the early 1800s,” Snyder said. “There were no machines to go up and down the hills. The volcanic slopes were rugged. So they would use donkeys. The biblical term for donkey is donkey. Hawaii natives would call them the villains.”

He added: “The legacy is about the donkey. Nothing else is the name.”

Kat Hammac, the Orange Beach franchise owner, said the brand is “really about the donkey.”

“To get them up and down[the craggy hills]they would have to roar, and they were called the little villains,” she said. “It’s really cute.”

Snyder said questions about the brand’s name had been raised before, but never to the extent of the attention the company received after objections from Orange Beach city officials.

Bad Ass Coffee of Hawaii was first established in 1989 and first came to the Florida Gulf Coast in 2007 and 2009 when stores opened in Miramar Beach and Santa Rosa Beach.

“The name has been questioned a few times,” he said. “We’re very conscious about that. We’re trying to amplify the story. When you have a name like Bad Ass Coffee, you have to tell your story.”

Snyder points to a visible poster on the cafe’s wall near the entrance titled “The Bad Ass Legend,” which explains the story of the hard-working donkeys. The story is also written on the back of coffee mugs, shirts and the packaged coffee sold in the café.

“I think in general when there are questions about the name, in most cases it takes a little education and for the franchisee to make a difference in the community like we’re doing this weekend,” Snyder said. He said part of the grand opening event will include donating 15% of the proceeds to the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo. Animals from the zoo should be present at the celebration.

Snyder also noted that the 15 or so jobs are local. Hammac herself is a local Baker High School graduate in Mobile and has owned Bad Ass Coffee of Hawaii franchises in Florida for several years.

Objections from Orange Beach

The response at Orange Beach, Snyder said, “was outstanding.” He added, “People here are so nice.”

Kennon said while he has no intention of buying a cup of coffee from the store, he has no intention of interfering with the business. He said some media reports in August “mischaracterized” his objections to the cafe’s name. Kennon said some reports erroneously suggested legal action would be taken against the company.

Orange Beach has a vulgarity ordinance on the books, enacted about a decade ago amid concerns about vulgar or indecent T-shirts and other merchandise sold in souvenir shops.

“We have no intention of taking any action,” he said. “I personally will not buy coffee from these guys. But they have the right to name their company whatever they want. It’s a First Amendment issue.”

Kennon said that despite the company’s story about the donkeys, he believes the provocative name “Bad Ass” is intended as a marketing ploy to boost business.

The city has other businesses with similar controversial names. Among them is Dick’s Last Resort, a company bought by strip club operator Déjà vu in 2019 that opened a venue in The Wharf last year. The establishment markets itself as ‘FU in Fun’ and the bar and restaurant are known for their willful employment of obnoxious staff. T-shirts and other merchandise contain sexual references.

Slutty Fries by Slutty Vegan

An order of Slutty Fries accompanies the Dancehall Queen, a burger from Slutty Vegan in Birmingham. (Maria Colurso | [email protected])

Related: “Slutty”, “Bad Ass”, “Wacked Out Weiner”: Provocative company names cause discussions in Alabama

Alabama has other controversial or salacious business labels designed to attract attention and market products. Wacked Out Weiner, a chain of hot dog restaurants, opened in Foley in 2016 and has since expanded to 11 restaurants in three states.

Birmingham is the home of Atlanta-based Slutty Vegan, and their menu is packed with references to describe their plant-based burgers: Sloppy Topping, Menage-A-Trois, One Night Stand and Fussy Hussy.

Kennon said he did not appreciate the use of swear words in public and frowned upon swear words used in front of women and children.

“It’s really sad,” he said.

For Lynn and Doug Wood of Minneapolis vacationing in Gulf Shores, the coffee shop evokes memories of a first-time visit to the area and the Bad Ass Coffee of Hawaii Shop in Pensacola.

“We loved it,” said Lynn Wood. “We were glad that there was also a Kick Ass Coffee here.”

Then she caught herself mis-naming the company.

“Bad ass, sorry,” she laughed. “We love the coffee. We’ll be back tomorrow.”