Groups Suing Over Big Soda Ban

Businesses, workers challenge NYC Board of Health's authority in court

NEW YORK -- A group of business and trade associations filed a lawsuit on Friday challenging the New York City Board of Health's authority to issue a rule to prohibit certain businesses from selling sugar-sweetened beverages larger than 16 ounces.

The ban on large-sized soda, juice drinks, teas, sports drinks and flavored water beverages, which goes into effect next March, will apply in fast-food restaurants, theaters, workplace cafeterias and most other places selling prepared food, but not supermarkets or convenience stores.

(Click here for previous CSP Daily News coverage of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's soda ban.)

The plaintiffs group consists of New York City businesses and workers represented by city, state and national associations, including the Teamsters Local 812, Korean-American Grocers Association of New York, National Association of Theatre Owners of New York State, National Restaurant Association, New York State Coalition of Hispanic Chambers of Commerce and the American Beverage Association.

The lawsuit, filed in New York State Court, contends that the New York City Board of Health lacks the authority to enact such a rule, noting that under New York State law, the power to pass new legislation is reserved for the City Council.

"This lawsuit is about ensuring that the Board of Health respects the legislative process," said Caroline Starke, spokesperson for the plaintiffs. "Despite strong and growing opposition from New Yorkers, the proposal was passed by sidestepping the city's elected legislators."

"We can't allow decisions like this--decisions that put real jobs at risk--to be made by skirting the process," said Ed Weber, president of Teamsters Local 812.

The board disregarded opposition by New Yorkers, including members of the City Council, and acted improperly by trying to implement this new policy by executive fiat. The plaintiffs also argue that the regulation is arbitrary and capricious, and violates Section 7803 of the New York Civil Laws & Rules.

"This arbitrary ban creates an uneven playing field--seriously harming thousands of small businesses in the City, while leaving others exempt," said Starke. "The ban is riddled with irrational exclusions, loopholes and random classifications that will seriously harm New York City businesses."

The suit will be brought as an Article 78 proceeding, which is expedited and generally adjudicated on the existing administrative record.

Local 812 represents more than 4,000 Teamster families working in the beverage industry. Members produce, haul, deliver, merchandise and sell soda, water, beer and sports drinks throughout the New York Metropolitan area.

The Korean-American Grocers Association of New York serves the interest of approximately 4,000 Korean-American grocery, deli and supermarket owners in the five boroughs of New York and its metropolitan area.

The National Association of Theatre Owners of New York State is a not-for-profit trade association representing 52 movie theatres, 312 screens and 1,800 employees across the five boroughs.

The National Restaurant Association is a leading business association for the restaurant industry, which comprises 970,000 restaurant and foodservice outlets and a workforce of nearly 13 million employees.

The New York State Federation of Hispanic Chambers of Commerce is the premiere Hispanic business association in New York State. Its goal is to create more opportunities for the Hispanic business community.

The American Beverage Association is the trade association representing the broad spectrum of companies that manufacture and distribute nonalcoholic beverages in the United States.