New York City officials announced Tuesday that they will give local restaurants and food outlets a three-month grace period before imposing fines for serving oversized sugary drinks that will be banned.
The board for the NYC Department of Health passed the ban last September, arguing that excessive soda drinking contributes to obesity and other health problems. It is the first city in the U.S. to pass such a ban, which places limits on the size of sugary drinks that can be sold in NYC.
As a result of the ban, most restaurants and food outlets in the city will be prohibited from serving sugar-sweetened drinks in an amount larger than a 16 oz. cup. However, certain groceries and other stores regulated by the state are exempt from the ban, which applies only to those regulated by the city.
When the ban takes effect in March, those violating it within the first three months will only be notified, not fined. But starting in June, violators will face a $200 fine.
"The Health Department will begin enforcing the portion cap rule when it goes into effect on March 12th, but it will not seek fines for non-compliance for the first three months," Mark Muschenheim, a lawyer for the city said in a statement.
There have been similar grace periods when other health initiatives were introduced under Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration, such as the requirement for certain restaurants to include calorie counts on items featured on their menu.
Meanwhile, the American Beverage Association and other businesses, including trade associations and unions, have filed a lawsuit to fight the ban, arguing that the Department of Health does not have the authority to pass such regulations under New York City’s charter.
According to the lawsuit, the ban robs consumers of the right to choose, while also hurting small businesses that profit from selling sugary drinks because they can be sold for significantly more than they cost to make.
A hearing on whether the case should proceed has been scheduled for next Wednesday.