Not there for you: Cancelled 'Friends' cafe asks for help recouping costs
The Central Perk replica coffee shop is seen in this social media image. (Friends Central Perk Pop-Up Shop in Toronto / Facebook)
Josh Elliott and Taline McPhedran, CTVNews.ca
Published Tuesday, June 7, 2016 10:11AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, June 7, 2016 5:36PM EDT
So no one told you the "Friends" café was gonna be this way.
The shop was a joke, the project is broke, the whole thing's D.O.A.
The man behind a "Friends"-themed pop-up shop in Toronto has cancelled its June 24 grand opening, and is now trying to recoup the money he spent on the parody café through a crowdfunding site.
Organizer Josh Botticelli says he was forced to cancel the opening of "Central Perk" – the café from the show – at the behest of Warner Bros., which owns the rights to "Friends."
Barely more than a month after creating the Facebook page, he received a letter from Warner Bros. asking him to take it down and stop any plans for the parody pop-up shop.
Botticelli told CTVNews.ca he had planned to use a portion of the admissions proceeds to give back to the community and had received multiple sponsorship requests, but Warner Bros. still said no. He said the company told him that the event had become too large and people would probably think that Warner Bros. was behind it.
“They said the reason was because of that fact that it was too big, the event was just too big for its own good,” he said. “There was too much interest. Over 73,000 people said they were interested and 20,000 people said they were attending.”
According to Botticelli, the entertainment company liked the idea but wasn’t in a place to see it through without a sponsor to pay for the entire event and didn’t believe that one would step forward in Canada.
“I’m a fan of the show and I know that feeling when people are fans and they want to be a part of it. Like when you go to Disney World and you’re literally stepping into that place,” he said.
According to Botticelli, he had contacted a copyright lawyer before Warner Bros. had contacted him. He had also purchased the web hosting domain and scouted for different locations along King Street in Toronto with a real estate agent.
Botticelli is now looking for supporters to help him raise $2,000 on GoFundMe to cover those costs. "During the past few months, I have incurred expenses in attempting to create this pop-up shop (legal, web, technical) and I was hoping that if possible, that you can help me recover some of these costs," he wrote in his GoFundMe post.
The crowdfunding campaign, which launched on April 30, had raised $25 from two donors by Tuesday morning.
Botticelli said that Facebook users expressed interest in visiting the café, including some who had planned to visit from Montreal, Nova Scotia, New York and Chicago.
In the past few months, several users have posted messages on the event's Facebook page to express their disappointment, whether through anger or sadness.
“I don’t mind it because I know that they were passionate about it. I’m disappointed myself,” said Botticelli. “I gave them (Warner Bros.) every scenario possible but they wouldn’t take it.”
Botticelli originally announced his idea for the Central Perk café in February, just days after another Toronto group declared they would be launching a "Seinfeld"-themed restaurant in the summer. The "Seinfeld" pop-up bar is still scheduled to open on July 15. Approximately 24,000 Facebook users are interested in attending and more than 9,000 say they are going, according to the group's Facebook page. However, the page has not been updated since February.
Unlike "Friends," "Seinfeld" was produced by Castle Rock Entertainment, and distributed by Sony Pictures Television.
“It was supposed to be a little bit of a fun take on it, originally just sent it to a hundred of my friends. Six people said they were going and within a day like 13,000 people had accepted,” said Botticelli.
And while it may not be Botticelli's day, his week, his month or even his year, he said he's willing to try a pop-up again, but only after speaking to the parent company and getting permission first. He also said that if other people want to see the pop-up shop make a comeback, they should show their support on the Facebook page.
"Life may be stuck in second gear at the moment, so let us come together and make our '90s dream a reality one day soon," he wrote.