Bloomberg Soda Ban: Groups Score Big Court Victory

A day before a ban on large-sized sodas in New York City was set to take place, a judge barred the rule from being enacted. Mayor Michael Bloomberg vowed to fight back, but associations far and wide are claiming victory.

It was one of the most-talked about law changes in New York City for months. But a legal decision stopped Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ban on large sugary drinks dead in its tracks.

The loopholes in this rule effectively defeat the stated purpose.

Read on for a roundup of what’s happened in the case so far:

The ban: Last year, Bloomberg announced his plan to ban the sale of large-sized sodas in restaurants, movie theaters, and other places—but with exceptions for certain kinds of sweet drinks, such as juices or diet sodas. In September, the ban passed the city health board, leading to an outcry from many associations, and public opinion polls showed that many New Yorkers opposed the ban, which is the latest of many public-heath initiatives Bloomberg has encouraged as the city’s mayor.

The court case: In October, a large contingent of associations sued over the forthcoming ban, including the American Beverage Association (ABA) and the National Restaurant Association (NRA), with the ABA simultaneously spearheading efforts and working with other large cities to fend off a potential trend. And on Tuesday, a judge in the legal case sided with the industry groups, finding the law arbitrary. “The loopholes in this rule effectively defeat the stated purpose,” wrote New York Supreme Court Justice Milton Tingling. “It is arbitrary and capricious because it applies to some but not all food establishments in the city, it excludes other beverages that have significantly higher concentrations of sugar sweeteners and/or calories on specific grounds and the loopholes inherent in the rule, including but not limited to no limitations on refills, defeat and/or serve to gut the purpose of the rule.” The court decision came just hours before the ban was to take effect.

Association reaction: In a short statement, ABA welcomed the decision, stating that “thousands of small businesses in New York City that would have been harmed by this arbitrary and unpopular ban. With this ruling behind us, we look forward to collaborating with city leaders on solutions that will have a meaningful and lasting impact on the people of New York City.” Meanwhile, NRA president and CEO Dawn Sweeney also cheered the decision, saying, “This is a great victory, particularly for thousands of restaurant operators and industry suppliers serving New York City who would have experienced financial hardships had the ban been enacted.” Other groups to speak out included the National Association of Theatre Owners and the New York State chapter of the NAACP, both of which also opposed the decision.

Next steps: Bloomberg, smarting from the legal setback, plans to appeal the decision, saying the ban is important in the city’s fight against obesity, which he plans to continue working with the city’s Board of Health to combat. “We believe that the judge’s decision was clearly in error, and we believe we will win on appeal,” he added, according to The New York Times. As for restaurant owners, the decision comes after many had already modified menus in anticipation of the ban.

Do you believe the court decision will stand? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!