A state judge on Monday stopped Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration from banning the sale of large sugary drinks at New York City restaurants and other venues, a major defeat for a mayor who has made public-health initiatives a cornerstone of his tenure.
The city is "enjoined and permanently restrained from implementing or enforcing the new regulations," New York Supreme Court Judge Milton Tingling decided one day before the sales limits would have taken effect. The city's chief counsel, Michael Cardozo, pledged to "appeal the ruling as soon as possible."
In halting the rules, Judge Tingling noted that the incoming sugary drink regime was "fraught with arbitrary and capricious consequences" that would be difficult to enforce with consistency "even within a particular city block, much less the city as a whole."
"The loopholes in this rule effectively defeat the stated purpose of the rule," the judge wrote.
Under a first-of-its-kind prohibition approved by the city Board of Health last year, establishments from restaurants to mobile food carts would have been prohibited from selling sugary drinks larger than 16 oz. After a three-month grace period, the city would have started fining violators $200 per sale.
The city rules, set to take effect on March 12, didn't include convenience stores, such as 7-Elevens, and supermarkets, both of which are regulated by the state government.
In his ruling, Judge Tingling found the Board of Health's mission is to protect New Yorkers by providing regulations that protect against diseases. Those powers, he argued, don't include the authority to "limit or ban a legal item under the guise of 'controlling chronic disease.' "
The board may supervise and regulate the city's food supply when it affects public health, but the City Charter clearly outlines when such steps may be taken: According to Judge Tingling, the city must face imminent danger due to disease.
"That has not been demonstrated," he wrote.
Judge Tingling also suggested that Mr. Bloomberg overstepped his powers by bringing the sugary drink rules before the Board of Health, which is solely appointed by him. The City Council, he wrote, is the legislative body "and it alone has the authority to legislate as the board seeks to do here."
City health officials, he wrote, aren't assigned the "sweeping and unbridled authority to define, create, authorize, mandate and enforce" the health code.
Across New York City, restaurants, bars and movie theaters had already started bracing for the change.
Brother Jimmy's BBQ, a chain with five locations in the city, had already ordered 1,000 new glasses for soft drinks at their five New York City locations. The restaurants serve soda in 24-oz. glasses, CEO Josh Lebowitz said earler this month