Judge Strikes Down New York Ban on Large, Sugary Drinks

Just Hours Before Ban is Set to Be Implemented, Marketers Get a Reprieve

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A New York Supreme Court judge has overturned Mayor Michael Bloomberg's ban on large, sugary drinks.

Still legal in New York.
Still legal in New York.

The decision was announced just hours before the ban was to go into effect. Industry groups including the American Beverage Association, the National Restaurant Association, the National Association of Theatre Owners and others sued to stop the plan, which was approved by New York City's Board of Health in September.

At the time, the Board of Health reported receiving 38,701 oral and written comments. Of those, about 32,000 comments were in favor of the proposal, while 6,000 were opposed. One opposing petition, however, included 90,000 signatures.

It was Mayor Bloomberg's most aggressive move yet to curb obesity rates and improve New Yorkers' health. Many of the measures adopted in New York have become models for other cities, such as restrictions on smoking and trans fats and the requirement that restaurants post calorie counts next to prices. Board of Health members had hoped the ban on large, sugary drinks would also become a model for other cities.

While some marketers, like Dunkin Donuts, had been proactive, educating employees about the ban and prepping patrons for the upcoming changes, others, like Starbucks, had taken a wait-and-see approach. Barclays Center and, at least in some cases, Madison Square Garden had already begun complying with the ban.

On Monday afternoon, there were few indications the ban was just hours from being implemented. Delis had bottles of Arizona, Gatorade and regular soda that all exceeded the 16 oz. limit in stock, as did a variety of quick-serve restaurants. A Europa restaurant in midtown was advertising meal deals featuring 20 oz. bottles of soda and Vitaminwater. Food carts in the midtown area were also stocked with products that would have been forbidden under the ban.

The ban would have prohibited restaurants, movie theaters, sports arenas and street carts under the purview of the city -- anything that receives a letter grade -- from serving large sugary beverages. It would not have applied to alcohol, juices or dairy-based beverages or any drinks with fewer than 25 calories per 8-ounce serving, such as diet sodas and unsweetened iced tea. "Large" was designated as any container holding more than 16 ounces.

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