Court Ruling: The Bloomberg 16-ounce Soda Ban is Finished

Daniel Doherty

6/26/2014 3:00:00 PM - Daniel Doherty

A law to prohibit venders from selling 16-ounce sugary drinks in movie theatres, restaurants and delis in New York City did not pass statutory muster, and therefore has been struck down by the New York State Court of Appeals. The ban was the brainchild of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and was considered to be a sensible and constitutional approach to curbing childhood obesity. But the law was levied by the New York City Board of Health -- that is, not the City Council of New York, the court determined. And as a result, the board engaged in activities exceeding its legal authority:

Guzzlers prevailed Thursday as New York's highest court refused to reinstate New York City's ban on the sale of big sodas, ruling that the city's health department overstepped its bounds when approved the 16-ounce or 453- gram cap on sugary beverages.

The court largely ignored the merits of the ban in the 20-page ruling but determined the city's Board of Health engaged in policy-making, and not simply health regulations, when it imposed the restrictions on restaurants, delis, movie theatres, stadiums and street cart vendors.

"The Board of Health engaged in law-making beyond its regulatory authority," the opinion reads. "… It is clear that the Board of Health wrote the Portion Cap Rule without benefit of legislative guidance."

The city had hoped Thursday's ruling would overturn a lower court's decision that blocked the restrictions after restaurants, theatre owners, beverage companies and small stores sued.

This ruling, then, puts the proverbial nail in the coffin to Bloomberg’s large sugary drink ban in New York City. Naturally, the American Beverage Association is elated:

“We are pleased that the lower courts’ decisions were upheld,” the American Beverage Association said in a statement after the decision was handed down. The restrictions, if reinstated, “would have created an uneven playing field for thousands of small businesses in the city and limited New Yorkers’ freedom of choice.”