The Ticket

NYC’s soda ban is overturned, but many businesses had already complied

Holly Bailey
The Ticket

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A Subway restaurant in New York advertised its drink sizes Monday (Allison Joyce/Getty Images)

NEW YORK--Last month, Brother Jimmy’s, a popular barbecue chain with five locations in New York City, ordered 1,000 new pint glasses to replace the 24-ounce containers that had been used to serve soft drinks to its customers.

The new glasses, distributed throughout its locations over the weekend, had been purchased to help the restaurant comply with a ban on large sugary drinks that had been set to go into effect in New York on Tuesday. But on Monday, a judge threw out the ban, which restricted sales of full-sugar drinks like soda and sweetened tea to just 16 ounces per serving, arguing the city had overstepped its regulatory powers.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg says the city will appeal the ruling, arguing the ban is necessary to help the city combat a growing obesity epidemic among city residents. But in the meantime, Brother Jimmy’s—like other restaurants in the city that raced to comply with the so-called soda ban—is "stuck" with the smaller glasses, according to a spokeswoman. The larger ones were removed from the restaurants over the weekend.

[Big sugary sodas: A Yahoo! News chat about government and your health]

“Brother Jimmy’s is clearly not thrilled that this decision has been overturned, but at this point, they are just hoping the ban is not completely off the table and these changes were not for nothing,” Lauren Menache, a spokeswoman for the restaurant, told Yahoo News. “Either way, this has been a small nightmare for companies like Brother Jimmy’s who rushed to comply only for the decision to be completely overturned for the day before. They should be compensated for their financial loss.” Around the city, restaurants and other businesses that had rushed to comply with the ban on large sugary drinks quickly sought to adjust their menus in the aftermath of the judge’s ruling Monday.

At Dunkin' Donuts locations around the city, managers removed signs installed just last week that announced its baristas would not be allowed to add sugar and other sweeteners to their coffees. “Business as normal,” one worker, who declined to be named because she did not have her employer’s permission to talk to the press, said at a location in New York’s East Village.

The sign, she said, had been taken down around 6pm—just three hours after the judge’s ruling.

Employees were also seen removing signs about the soda regulations at a Subway sandwich shop near Times Square and at an Auntie Anne’s pretzel shop in Penn Station.

Valerie Kinney, a spokeswoman for Auntie Anne’s, said the chain had kept its larger-sized cups on hand to serve diet sodas, which was allowed under the regulation, and that it would work with franchise owners to make sure shops were able to restock their inventory with regular sodas.

“The delay in the ban is a welcomed action,” Kinney said. “Guests should have the opportunity to make responsible choices on their own.”

But many eateries around the city reported no major changes to their business practices—in part because many simply chose not to comply, citing the pending lawsuit over the regulation and the city’s announcement that it wouldn’t fine those found not to be in compliance until June.

At Two Boots Pizza near New York’s Herald Square, the eatery had not emptied its refrigerator of 20-ounce sodas—even on the eve of the ban. On Monday night, the pizzeria was doing brisk business, offering customers two slices of pizza with a soda.

In Brooklyn, a worker at the Cobble Hill Cinemas said the movie theater would have to reorder larger cups after the movie theater instead ordered smaller cups ahead of the ban.

At a McDonald’s in Union Square, Susan Johnson, a 43-year-old office worker from Manhattan, was spotted carrying a 32-ounce drink of the restaurant on Monday evening. It was a Diet Coke, she explained—a drink that would have been allowed under the ban. But, she added, she didn’t like the idea of “telling people what they can or can’t drink.”

“People have the right to make their own decisions," she said.

On Tuesday, Bloomberg will hold a news conference at Lucky's Cafe, a midtown diner that had already complied with the drink limits. With the ban caught up in litigation, the mayor will urge eateries to voluntarily limit the sugary drinks it serves customers. At a news conference Monday, he argued that businesses have a moral obligation to stop doing things they know are "harmful" to health of their customers.

"I don't think it will hurt your bottom line," Bloomberg said. But even if it was more expensive to comply, he added, "We all have an obligation to do what we can to help each other."

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