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National Restaurant Association - Beverage ban coalition: Mandate a taste of things to come

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Beverage ban coalition: Mandate a taste of things to come

Eliot Hoff.jpgAs New York foodservice operators prepare for the city's health department to rule on a proposed ban of beverages bigger than 16 ounces, Eliot Hoff, chief spokesman of the New Yorkers for Beverage Choices Coalition, talked about the mandate and what operators can do to fight back. The National Restaurant Association is a member of the coalition.


Where does the proposed ban stand now?
At this point we believe the board of health is predisposed to passing the ban. They are appointed by the mayor and generally follow his lead on these kinds of issues. We believe there are members of the board of health who do not believe in the effectiveness of this proposed ban, so we hope there will at least be some debate about it.

What will your organization do if the proposal is voted into law?
We are currently looking into what our options are. They could include legislative or legal options. Our focus right now is to continue to build the coalition. If the board of health does vote in favor of it, we're sending a very strong message that it is not supported by New Yorkers. People feel like they can make their own choices about what and how much they eat and drink.

Why is there such a disconnect between the mayor and the public on this issue?
We believe we've seen a lack of understanding regarding how New Yorkers are consuming these beverages. Many are sharing them for economic purposes. And for businesses, the proposal is [in effect] arbitrary. For example, one business might have to comply with the rule, but the business located next door might not be impacted. The fact that you can buy a "Big Gulp" at the 7-Eleven next door, but not a bubble tea in Chinatown, is concerning.

Why is the ban detrimental to business?
The ban would impact restaurants, movie theaters, sports arenas, delis and food carts, and beverages are an important stream of revenue for those businesses. When consumers go out to eat, they also want to drink something. This ban would remove many of their customers' choices from those establishments. There also is concern that customers will go elsewhere to find what they want. They will purchase beverages at groceries, which are not impacted by the ban.

Is there any indication that the ban would help solve New York's obesity problem?
We believe it will not help solve it. We believe there should be a comprehensive approach to dealing with obesity and that is not happening.

Is there a concern that this proposal would lead to other bans?
Yes. There's already talk about what could be next.

What can restaurateurs do to fight this ban?
Let your voices be heard. Talk to your local elected officials. Let city council members know how you feel.

So what is the current feeling among restaurateurs in the city?
This issue has united the restaurant community in ways they've not been united before. No matter what type of restaurant you operate, no matter what neighborhood you're in, whether you're a mom-and-pop or a high-end operator, you're impacted by this ban.

Pictured, top right: Eliot Hoff

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