Blocked NYC soda ban creates glut of 16-ounce cups

Some businesses shelled out plenty to comply with Mayor Bloomberg's ill-fated limits on sugary drinks.

By Jason Notte Mar 13, 2013 10:27AM
Image: Fastfood working (Creatas/PictureQuest)With New York City's soda and sugary drink ban dead in its original form and cast into legal limbo, New Yorkers and the shops and eateries that serve them can relax and knock back a tankard of any size syrup-laden beverage they choose.

But if you're a business owner who had ordered thousands of dollars worth of 16-ounce glasses to comply with the beverage size limits just in case Mayor Michael Bloomberg got his way, then you've got a problem.

Take Josh Lebowitz, chief executive of the city's Brother Jimmy's BBQ chain, who told The Huffington Post that he parted with $1,000 for pint glasses when Coca-Cola couldn't keep up with demand for free 16-ounce cups. Those glasses now sit boxed up, awaiting word on the city's appeal or the start of the Atlantic Coast Conference men's basketball tournament for Brother Jimmy's devout ACC alumni base -- whichever comes first.

"We spent the time and money preparing for these changes and now it's on hold, I guess," Lebowitz said.

Good guess, Josh. New York Supreme Court Judge Milton Tingling ruled on Monday that the law was doomed by inconsistencies that capped servings of Coca-Cola (KO), Pepsi (PEP) and other sweetened beverages at 16 ounces but let lattes flow unabated and kept certain Big Gulp-dispensing convenience stores out of the mix, according to CNN. The ruling came just one day before the law would have limited non-coffee sugary drinks sold at restaurants, movie theaters, street carts and elsewhere to 16 ounces.

The Daily News reported that Mayor Bloomberg had planned to unleash city health inspectors with 17-ounce cups to keep everybody honest. Restaurants that violated the ban would have lost points on their sanitation score.

The regulations were "fraught with arbitrary and capricious consequences," the judge wrote. "The simple reading of the rule leads to the earlier acknowledged uneven enforcement even within a particular city block, much less the city as a whole...the loopholes in this rule effectively defeat the stated purpose of the rule."

The New York Times reported last week that Bloomberg's ban on oversized sweet drinks like jumbo colas would have extended to large and extra-large coffee and medium to large iced coffee beverages, while sweet stuff like hot chocolate got capped at medium sizes. Lattes containing 50% or more milk were immune to the policy changes, thanks to one of those loopholes the judge mentioned.

That's where the law got a bit murky and where Starbucks (SBUX) decided not to play along. The company called Bloomberg's ban vague and told Business Insider that it didn't plan to remove so much as a millimeter of foam from its menu. Bloomberg accused Starbucks of playing coy when asked about the subject on CBS' "Face The Nation" on Sunday and suggested that it could change packaging instantly if it so chose.

But then Starbucks would just be a large-scale version of Brother Jimmy's, stuck with racks of cups it may never have to use.

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Why didn't Gov Bloomberg just outlaw the importing of any 16 oz cup to New York City?  Instead he outlawed selling the product which was struck down by a judge. 


By outlawing the cup, he could have created a giant black market mafia controlled underground network of "Speakeasys" catering to sugar-holics by supplying them the means to drink to their hearts content.   He might even see one of his own politicians taking bribes at one of these joints.

Mar 13, 2013 1:44PM

The ACC tournament is in Atlanta -- the Big East has it's tourney in NYC -- Great fact-checking


Does this mean I can disregard the whole article as false?

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