New Yorkers may not have to let go of their supersized sodas after all.
Less than 24 hours before Mayor Michael Bloomberg's soda ban would have taken effect on March 12, State Supreme Court Justice Milton Tingling in Manhattan called the regulation "arbitrary and capricious" and declared it invalid, according to Reuters.
The soda ban would have required food and beverage establishments regulated by the citys health department (restaurants, movie theaters, street vendors) to remove sugary beverages over 16 ounces from their menus. The ban would have applied to nonalcoholic beverages that contain less than 50 percent milk and are presweetened by the manufacturer or the vendor with sugar or another caloric sweetener. They also would have had to exceed 25 calories per eight ounces.
Some beverages in the clear included milkshakes and lattes, since they contain the milk requirement, though the New York Times reported that frappucinos may not have been exempt. Diet soda, fruit smoothies or fruit juices without added sweeteners would have been safe, along with the Double Big Gulps at convenience stores, since theyre not graded by the health department.
Those that wouldn't have made the cut: Sports drinks like Gatorade, energy drinks, slushies and bubble teas. Coffee shops would have had to ask customers to add their own sugar and flavored sugars. And pizza delivery places wouldn't have been able to deliver those two-liter soda bottles either.
Health inspectors would have been able to issue violations carrying $200 fines to those New York establishments bold enough to sell 20-ounce sodas after the bans three-month grace period.
Soda companies fought the measure, calling it an attack on consumer freedom and rallying the group New Yorkers For Beverage Companies, which has about 525,000 supporters to date. The American Beverage Association and other business groups filed a lawsuit, with the NAACP being its most recent proponent. The civil rights organization said the soda ban was unfair for minority-owned small businesses, according to the New York Daily News:
Our stand against Mayor Bloombergs soda ban is about basic economic fairness, says Hazel N. Dukes, President of the New York State Conference of the NAACP. Bloomberg's ban attacks the little guy, while giving a pass to big corporations.
Some New Yorkers publicly announced their plans to skirt the ban, reports Jezebel:
"I'm going to drink as many 20-ounce sodas as I can," says Greenpoint waitress JoAnn Mikulak, bravely telling the New York Times of her personal plans for the three-month grace period that the city of New York is allowing businesses to adapt to the ban.
Her coworker Irene Prois adds, "If someone wants it, they're going to get it. [My boyfriend] doesn't care. He'll just get a double."
While this isnt Bloombergs first attempt in imposing a nanny state on New Yorkers, his past regulations have had an easier time going through. The mayor successfully mandated nonsmoking restaurants and bars, banned trans fats and required calorie counts for fast-food chains in New York City. As with his past regulations, the mayor was unapologetic when he took to Twitter on Monday, before news of the judge's decision:
According to Reuters, Mayor Bloomberg's office was not available for comment about the judge's decision. Even if Justice Tingling had not ruled the ban invalid, its duration still would have remained uncertain since Bloomberg's seat comes up for grabs in November.
Yet Bloomberg isnt alone in his efforts. Even if New York City doesn't enact a soda ban this year, 30 states now have soda taxes in place and the soda industry is starting to feel the impact, with its soda revenue shrinking over the past eight years.