The New York State Restaurant Association has declined to participate in a lawsuit filed by the National Restaurant Association and other trade groups to overturn New York City’s newly passed restrictions on the sale of large, sugary beverages in the restaurants and other businesses.
The lawsuit, which was filed on Oct. 12 in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan, seeks to block New York officials from implementing the ban on large sodas and sugary drinks passed by the city’s Board of Health in September. The ban, which was designed to address the nation’s health and obesity problems, is slated to take effect in March 2013.
The suit claims that the Board of Health overstepped its authority by passing the ban, contending that it should have been taken up by the New York City Council.
“The lawsuit is about ensuring that the Board of Health respects the legislative process,” said Caroline Starke, a spokeswoman for the plaintiffs. “Despite strong and growing opposition from New Yorkers, the proposal was passed by sidestepping the city’s elected legislators.”
And while the NYSRA opposes the city ban, executives of the 5,000-member association have chosen not to take part in the lawsuit. “We’re concerned with further restrictions on what our customers can and cannot order,” said Rick Sampson, president and chief executive of the NYSRA. “And we don’t believe it addresses the problem of obesity.”
However, he continued, the association chose not to join the coalition “because this issue only impacts a very small percent of our New York City members, and we feel that we need to pick our battles.
“We’re also very concerned that there may be blowback from the city [that could affect] our association and members,” Sampson said. “We want to make it as clear as possible that we’re not involved.”
The initiative, which has the support of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, establishes a 16-ounce size limit on sodas and other sugary drinks served at restaurants, sports venues, movie theaters, street carts and delis. The city said earlier it will begin fining sellers by as much as $200 for violating the ban once it has taken effect in mid-June.
Retail food and convenience stores, which fall under the jurisdiction of the state of New York, are not regulated under the city ban.
Earlier the NRA had said the ban “unfairly targets restaurants, and is a misguided tactic to impact the obesity problem.”
In addition to the NRA, the lawsuit coalition includes Teamsters Local 812, Korean-American Grocers Association of New York, National Association of Theatre Owners of New York State, New York State Coalition of Hispanic Chambers of Commerce and the American Beverage Association.
The coalition has requested that the court reach a decision by Dec. 15 so that businesses do not have to spend any money complying with the regulation.