NEW YORK CITY — Opponents of the Bloomberg administration's controversial large soda ban filed a lawsuit Friday to defend their right to sell large, sugar-sweetened drinks.
The plaintiffs, which include the National Restaurant Association, the American Beverage Association and the Korean-American Grocers Association of New York, charge the city's Board of Health overstepped its bounds when it ruled to bar restaurants, delis and concession stands from serving beverages larger than 16 ounces last month. The rule is set to take effect this March.
They argue that only the City Council has the power to pass laws, and that the administration had made "an end-run around the City Council, reflecting an overreaching 'nanny administration,'" according to the suit.
"This lawsuit is about ensuring that the Board of Health respects the legislative process," Caroline Starke, a spokeswoman for the plaintiffs, said in a statement. "Despite strong and growing opposition from New Yorkers, the proposal was passed by sidestepping the city’s elected legislators."
The plaintiffs also charge the regulations are "arbitrary and capricious" because of various "loopholes" that, for instance, would allow grocery stores and bodegas to continue selling large-sized beverages, even though delis and restaurants can't.
They also take issue with various exemptions for certain drinks, such as those made with large amounts of milk or fruit, and argue that the 16 ounce maximum is "seemingly random."
"The ban is riddled with irrational exclusions, loopholes and random classifications that will seriously harm New York City businesses," said Stare, arguing the "arbitrary ban creates an uneven playing field — seriously harming thousands of small businesses in the City, while leaving others exempt."
The suit was filed at 4 p.m. in New York County Supreme Court.
Marc LaVorgna, a spokesman for the mayor's office, said Friday that the Board of Health "absolutely has the authority to regulate matters affecting health," and noted that obesity kills nearly 6,000 New Yorkers a year.
"This predictable, yet baseless, lawsuit fortunately will help put an even greater spotlight on the obesity epidemic, the only preventable public health issue getting worse in America," LaVorgna said. "Industry tried to stop the city's smoking ban. Industry sued the city to stop calorie counts. Not only did those efforts fail, but our policies have been adopted in cities and states across the country."